Blog of the Week: Organically Cooked, Hania, Crete

Maria Verivaki of Organically Cooked

Maria Verivaki of Organically Cooked

Blog of the Week:  Organically Cooked

Writer: Maria Verivaki

Where: Hania, Crete, Greece

What: Maria was born and raised in New Zealand, and as an adult moved to Crete, an island in Greece where her parents emigrated from long ago.  Affectionately known as “the Mediterranean Kiwi”, Maria is thankful she returned to her roots. “I feel my New Zealand upbringing influenced my underlying Mediterranean characteristics, and in a very positive light.”

After Maria married a Greek, she noticed how much her new family focused on food. She began her blog as a way to preserve family recipes for her children.  Maria says food is an extension of her Greek identity, which she doesn’t want her children to forget or take for granted.

Maria’s blog has since morphed into something even greater: an outlet to share her everyday life and experiences in the land she loves.  Her readers are not just people interested in food. Diaspora Greeks and those interested in Greek culture and politics all read Maria’s blog.

She reports the latter group has increased recently due to the financial crisis in Greece.  “People are interested in alternative views about what’s happening in Greece because the mainstream media tends to discuss only the same few issues, and often in a disconnected way. I like to talk about how people are coping with the crisis in Crete [instead of] how they are not coping.”

Recipe Highlights/Favorite Quotes from Organically Cooked:

Spanikopita made with Filo Pastry

Spanikopita made with Filo Pastry

Filo Pastry for Greek Pita-Making: “A friend recently showed me a photo of what looked like a perfect Greek pita. The filo pastry had that ‘village-style’ look which we can buy from the deep freeze in Greek supermarkets…Hrisida’s pie looked hand-crafted; the layers of filo were perfectly sized for a round baking tin. Shop-bought filo is always sold in square/rectangular pieces. Her pie reminded me of the qualities of a good νοικοκυρά [nee-ko-kir-AH – housewife] …

‘Don’t tell me you made all that filo pastry by yourself,’ I wrote to her jokingly.

‘Of course,’ she replied seriously. ‘I do all the [filo] myself and I started out as a complete novice.’

God help me, I thought, as I imagined her kitchen table covered in flour, her clothes dusted all over and her kitchen looking like a bomb just hit it. Making filo pastry is a form of art and nothing less. The typical Greek housewife of the past made huge pies in 60 cm tins called σινί (sini) [see-NEE] with low sides. The last time I saw someone making paper-thin filo pastry, all I could imagine was the floury mess it would create in my kitchen. But the end result was well worth it.”

Karidopasta-Amigdalopasta-Tourta

Karidopasta-Amigdalopasta-Tourta

Karidopasta-Amigdalopasta-Tourta, Two Layer Birthday Cake with Walnuts and Almonds: “I was reminded of my mother’s culinary identity … during our road trip through Greece last month, when I was at a taverna in Gavros…  At the end of the meal, as is customary in tavernas all over Greece, a dessert, compliments of the chef, is brought to your table when you ask for the bill. It consisted of two layers: a dark one on the bottom and a yellow one on the top. I immediately recognized that cake. It was the cake my mother made for my birthday (every single year – it never changed). One look at that cake, and I knew I was going to eat a semolina-based walnut (dark layer) and almond cake (light layer). … [I]t was undoubtedly the cake my mother made … the only difference being that [she] used to fill it with custard and top it with fresh cream for extra effect.”

Ladokouloura (Olive Oil Cookies)

Ladokouloura (Olive Oil Cookies)

Olive Oil Biscuits [Cookies]: “Olive oil biscuits are very economical to make in Crete with our abundance of olive oil and orange juice.  Not only do the cookies use highly localized ingredients which we grow ourselves, but making these quintessentially Greek cookies … requires all the family members’ personal contribution: my husband ensures our coffers are full of olive oil to last us throughout the year (we go through 150 kilos a year among five people), my kids often pick the oranges when they go with their dad to our orchards, I prepare the ladokouloura [olive oil cookie] dough, and my kids shape the cookies. This is one of the most family-oriented recipes from my kitchen.”

Be sure to check out the recipes mentioned in this post:

 

12 Responses to Blog of the Week: Organically Cooked, Hania, Crete

  1. thanks laurie – i love the way you made your boureki
    of course, it would be a little avant garde for my other half, but i may just surprise him!

  2. Pingback: Blog of the Week: Organically Cooked, Hania, Crete, Greece | Laurie … » Greek Recipes

  3. sounds soo good!! is ricotta cheese easily found in greece? what’s a substitute?

    • Carole, in Hania, Maria makes her Boureki with fresh myzithra. About myzithra, she says, “One of Crete’s most famous cheeses is a soft white crumbly creamy cheese called mizithra (also known as pichtogalo – thickened milk), the same kind of cheese that is widely known as ricotta in the West.”

      I’ve had this cheese in Greece, and it has a more distinctive flavor than ricotta available in the US. I combined feta and ricotta to replicate the flavor of fresh myzithra. If you don’t have fresh myzithra on your island, you could use either manouri or fresh anthotyri. And if you’re in the mood, add a little feta too!

  4. Laurie Smith says:

    When you freeze it uncooked, how do you prevent the potato from blackening?

    • Hi Laurie,

      I asked Maria about potatoes blackening. She said, “It’s a common misconception to think potatoes will go black if you freeze them. Potatoes go black if they are peeled and remain in the open for a little while. When the boureki is made just like you’ve made it, with the layers, if you place it immediately into the freezer [wrapped in plastic], the potatoes will freeze WHITE! When you take it out of the freezer to cook it, DO NOT DEFROST! Just pop it into the oven and cook like you normally would a fresh boureki. I freeze them without the olive oil, which I add only when I cook it.”

      Maria sent this picture “of boureki (not made in layers, but mixed very quickly by hand – same ingredients though)” which she made and froze two months ago: http://on.fb.me/N8UPGh And here’s Maria’s picture of frozen boureki after it’s been cooked; not a black potato in sight!: http://on.fb.me/ScNLcJ

  5. Norma-Platanos, Mangoes and Me! says:

    Such a lovely dish a must keep for future.

  6. Laurie, I’m stoked to be reading about folks who really know how to cook. Never had anything like this dish, but that is about the change! Thank you so much for your wonderful work.

    • As you pointed out in your great blog post, pureed eggplant is wonderful, plus it can be frozen and stored for times when eggplant aren’t in season. Another great way to preserve eggplant, is to grill it and peel it, and just freeze the flesh. You can make great Melitzanosalata (Greek eggplant salad) with frozen grilled eggplant. I chop the grilled eggplant instead of pureeing for this recipe because I like the salad with a little texture. Melitzanosalata is also great with a little grilled red pepper chopped in. All the best to you!

  7. I finally did it! After all my plans of the last three weeks. today was the day to try this recipe. We ate half for dinner and the rest for breakfast in the morn. What a discovery! We love it. Of course, I adapted just a bit to go with what I had and what we like. The herb mixture is mint, parsley and basil. I thought it still had Mediterranean aroma coming from the oven. The big test here was to see if frozen zucc slices and frozen tomato slices would work. No problem! This dish is filled with flavor and most satisfying. We are so happy for this new addition to the recipe arsenal.

    • Jeanie, I’m so glad you like the recipe, since I think it’s absolutely delicious! And, of course, you adapted it. The herb mixture you used is classic Mediterranean and, I’m with you, the smells coming out of the oven are amazing. Glad to hear that Maria’s technique of freezing the veggies worked for you. Thanks for letting me know how it turned out!

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