Greek Peasant Food
Olive Oil Braised Potatoes and Collards
I am a peasant at heart, and, truly, peasant food is my favorite. Many cultures know how to do peasant food right, Greece definitely being one of them. When I was in Greece a few years ago, I was in real-food foodie heaven. Greek food is rich with vegetables, legumes, fresh fish and meat. Drizzle feta and olive oil over it all, place a few olives on the side and you have yourself a feast! I grazed my way through many mezes - tomato fritters, yellow pea dip with chopped onions, homemade feta and pita, and lots and lots of olives between dips in the ocean, walks through the shops, and just gazing at the natural beauty of the island.
One of my favorite Greek cookbooks (and I have a lot), in Ikaria by Diane Kochilas. Ikaria is an island in Greece that is famous because people there live a long, long, long time and are very healthy. Heart disease and cancer is almost non-existant. Why? Well, researchers are trying to figure that out exactly but it seems to be a combination of diet (no processed food, organic vegetables, meat from animals raised in a natural environment, lots of fresh olive oil) and lifestyle (close relationships, limited to no stress). Not surprisingly then, if you love vegetables, this is a great one for your collection (although the meat recipes are good too).
The recipe below is adapted from this book and makes use of one my favorite fall vegetables: collards. This preparation is a far cry from the soupy, salty, soggy mass that may appear on plates next to your ribs at the bbq place. In fact, there is evidence that Greeks have been cultivating collards for over 2000 years. This is a fresh tasting dish and I promise you will feel wholesome eating it as it provides great sources of Vitamin A, K, C, B6 and Calcium. I sprinkled my serving with feta and olives, poured myself another glass of wine, and enjoyed my peasant feast.
Serves 2 - 3
1/2 c olive oil
1 large red onion, chopped
1 large bunch collards, washed, stemmed and chopped
4 medium-ish yukon gold potatoes, peeled and chopped into smallish pieces (fresh potatoes from the Farmers Market will make a world of difference here)
I use my trusty Le Crueset deep, covered skillet. Heat 2T oil over ML and add onion and collards. Stir around, then cover and cook 10 - 15 mins until collards wilted. Check and make sure its not sticking or burning.
Add 3T oil and add the potatoes and a generous pinch of salt. Pour in about 3/4 c of water - enough to come up about 1/3 of the way up the contents of the pot. Cover, and cook 30 - 45 minutes until the potatoes are nice and soft. Uncover, and cook an additional 15 minutes or so until the water has evaporated. Add the remaining oil (I use regular oil for cooking and then finishing oil ordered from Greece for the topping), check seasoning.