Friday, 13 September 2013

Braised summer greens with corn (Χόρτα τσιγαριαστά με ξενικόστερα)

Every day during our getaway break in Paleohora, we ate at the same taverna, Χουμάς, by Grammenos Beach, near Kountoura.  Houmas serves freshly prepared, mainly seasonal delicacies on a daily basis, all cooked by one of the sons of the original owners of the taverna, who is a trained chef. It is one thing to know how to cook the local dishes of your region, which you may have watched your mother prepare on a regular basis for your family, and quite another to to cook these same dishes as a chef who is trained to standardise these meals so that they taste the same whenever they are cooked. In our house, the same dishes that I cook on a regular basis do not always come out with the same taste!

Our favorite dish at Houmas was braised summer greens, χόρτα τσιγαρισατά, in colloquial terms, which basically means what has been left over in the garden, all cooked together. Beans, vlita greens,  zucchini and corn (which are colloquially known in Crete as ξενικόστερα) go amazingly well with a tomato-based sauce flavoured with some onion or garlic and olive oil.

Braised greens is a favorite dish for many Cretans: it represents the abundance of a great variety of crops, and wealth in terms of a rich feast provided by the scraps that nature yields, even when the growing season is at its end.

You can guess what I cooked when we came back home, straight after our holiday:

Xenikostera, of course, with what was left over in our summer garden, plus the one game bird my husband caught during our holiday - a tsihla (Turdus spp.).

At Houmas taverna, a plate of braised greens cost 4.50 euro; at home, it cost us the labour and toil of a summer garden.

You can find the recipe for tsigarisata horta here.

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