Greek Black-Eyed Pea Salad with Walnuts and Whole-Wheat Pita

Greek Black-Eyed Pea Salad with Walnuts and Whole-Wheat Pita

Greek Black-Eyed Pea Salad with Walnuts and Whole-Wheat Pita

It’s pretty well known by now that the Mediterranean Diet is one of the most healthy in the world. A lot can be attributed to the amazing health benefits of olive oil. Some might think that high fish consumption also plays a major role in the statistics, but like most countries, fish is only available to those that live in close proximity to the sea or other water source. Greece is a rugged country, with numerous mountain ranges that were impassible until the last 75 years or so. Greeks, like other indigenous inhabitants, had to sustain themselves with what they grew and raised. That’s why the cuisine is so diverse. Several foods found in the Greek diet are specific only to the region in which they were raised.

Take black-eyed peas. One wouldn’t normally think of this tiny legume as part of the Greek diet, yet this and other beans, legumes, and pulses have been a primary protein source for centuries. The grower of these legumes has the added benefit of enjoying them fresh right out of their pod, and many months later when they are dried and stored for future meals. I always enjoy adding legumes to dishes that wouldn’t normally include them just to see if the recipient notices. If a dish is flavorful enough, even a bean hater wouldn’t complain.

My Greek salad recipe has the usual suspects: tomatoes, cucumbers, and feta. But with the addition of the black-eyed peas, whole-wheat pita, and walnuts, it becomes a powerhouse salad. Notable Greek food authority Diane Kochilas recently posted an article on the possible source of her family’s longevity. And at the end of her wonderful article is her recipe for Ikarian black-eyed peas.

Greek Salad with Black-Eyed Peas, Walnuts, and Whole-Wheat Pita

1 can (15 oz.) black-eyed peas
2 whole-wheat pitas
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 garlic clove, pressed
1 medium cucumber, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2-3 medium tomatoes, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 cup chopped red onion
1/3 cup chopped Italian parsley
1/3 cup chopped mint
1/4 cup chopped toasted walnuts
3 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
3 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. fresh-ground black pepper
3/4 tsp. salt
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, preferably Greek
3/4 cup Bulgarian feta, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1. Rinse and drain beans in a strainer or colander; set aside.

2. Slice pita lengthwise into one-inch strips. Slice each strip into one-inch squares and place in a bowl. Add 1 Tbsp. olive oil and garlic; toss to coat. Spread pita on a baking sheet and toast in a 350° oven for about 7 minutes; remove and cool.

3. In the same bowl that the pita was prepared, add drained peas, cucumber, tomatoes, onion, parsley, mint, walnuts, and cooled pita; toss.

4. In a small bowl, combine vinegar, lemon juice, pepper, and salt. Whisk until salt is dissolved. Add extra virgin olive oil and whisk until oil is fully emulsified; set aside.

5. About 15 minutes before serving, toss prepared dressing in salad and spoon into a serving bowl. Scatter feta pieces on top. Serves 6 to 8 people.

Orange-Rosemary Pork Kabobs

I have a huge, overgrown hedge of rosemary in the front of my house. It seems to bloom continuously and has become quite the hub of the yard. Small finches, as many as eight at a time, swoop down from the tree across the street, and perch within its woody branches. Their tiny beaks peck at the plant’s pale blue blossoms, gathering what, I’m not quite sure. And, just as quickly as they appear, they all fly away, often together again, in such a grand motion that they stir this tired old shrub.

Honeybees also love my rosemary and its profuse blooms. Hundreds of them in fact. With the collapse of the honeybee I can’t bear to trim it. They are so good at what they were designed to do that nothing seems to distract them. Not me pulling weeds or our cat Ginger finding shelter under the plant’s overgrown canopy. Oh, how I wish I knew where they were depositing their pollen because rosemary honey sounds divine.

I also rely on this plant for my culinary rosemary. I try to pick newly emerged branches and give them a good soak in water. This recipe for pork kabobs came from me watching all the activity and feeling left out. Now we’re nourished too.

Orange-Rosemary Pork Kabobs
Serve on a bed of pistachio-studded quinoa.

1/4 cup fresh rosemary leaves
2 Tbsp. orange zest
1/4 cup fresh-squeezed orange juice
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 garlic clove
2 Tbsp. honey
1 lb. pork tenderloin

1. Strip leaves from rosemary branches and place them in a food processor with zest, juice, olive oil, garlic, and honey. Process until garlic and rosemary are finely minced.

2. Cube tenderloin into 1-inch pieces and place in a shallow dish. Pour prepared marinade on top, cover, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to one day.

3. Remove pork from refrigerator, skewer with either metal or wood (soaked in water) skewers, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Discard marinade.

4. Prepare the grill and cook over medium heat for approximately 10-12 minutes, turning skewers once, until juices from meat run clear.

Orange-Rosemary Pork Kabobs

Orange-Rosemary Pork Kabobs

How I Start the Day

I try to get some sort of exercise every day. Some days it involves walking from my desk to the kitchen, other days it means going to the gym sweating with the elliptical while watching the Food Network. I also try to take in a Latin dance class once a week. It’s a great way to burn some calories and enjoy Latin tunes. I think my salsa, meringue, and samba are pretty good. Sometimes the instructor tries to modernize things and adds some contemporary moves. I’ve got pretty good rhythm and thought I was doing all right until I showed my daughter and her friend what we do in class. So much for my dance class. Ever since then it hasn’t been the same. The illusion that I actually know what I’m doing is forever shattered into a million pieces, their frightened looks reflecting back at me in shards of glass.

Peninsula Reservior

Peninsula Reservoir

They’ve stripped me of my Latin joy.

Thank goodness for my BFF Angie. We walk the trail surrounding this beautiful reservoir twice a week. We catch up on what we cooked for dinner the night before and share stories about our kids. Mostly, though, we just laugh. The difference is that we laugh with each other, not at each other. No better way to start the day.

Spring Onions

img_0130I picked up these beauties at my local farmers market. After they’ve been trimmed and wash they look familiar, don’t they. Yep, they are merely slightly overgrown green onions or scallions, left in the ground a little longer to develop a larger bulb. I’m not exactly sure why spring onions are only available during the spring. I suppose it’s because growers only have a limited amount of space and must cycle their alliums. The beauty of these onions is that they mature in just a couple of months. If interested in planting some, now is the perfect time since the soil is starting to warm. It’s possible to start these from seed indoors, but being that it’s already mid-April, you’ll have better luck picking up some seedlings or starts at your local garden center or nursery.

Spring onions will brighten other spring vegetables in the kitchen. As far as flavor, they are stronger than a typical green onion, but not as strong as a storage onion. If you decide to swap them for leeks, they aren’t as sweet and are more tender. Pair them with favas, peas, immature greens, asparagus, and artichokes. Add whole, with 1 inch of green tops attached, to spring vegetable stews and braises. Halve, slice thinly, sauté in butter, and add to an omelette or quiche. Or, do what I did and add sautéed spring onions to buttermilk mashed potatoes.

Home Goods Mishaps

I admit it. I love to wander the world of discount home goods. And I know there are many of you out there. I’ve passed you in the crammed isles, filling your cart with past-season motifs, overstocked Harry and David preserves, and silk flowers that have missing petals that somehow escaped you until you got home. I purchased this measuring cup and didn’t notice the misprint until I was in the middle of a recipe.img_0108