Sunday, June 26, 2011

Summer Lunches

My sister Ruth is here. She usually arrives this time of the year for a week or two, and it's always good to see her. She has lived in Baltimore, on the east coast of the US, for the last thirty-one years, but has a small flat in Chinchon just outside Madrid where she spends the early summer before visiting us in June then spending some time with our older brother on the west coast of Ireland.

She comes bearing family news – of all of us far-flung siblings, Ruth is the only one who keeps in touch with everyone, ideas to keep the Little Ones entertained during the increasingly hot days, and a light vegetarian habit that gets me eating the way that I prefer to.

“You must give me the recipe for this talatouri (as the Cypriots call tzatziki),” she said as we sat down a little after noon today surrounded by bowls and dishes containing the hummous and talatouri that I had just made, the beetroot that I had pickled according to my Greek and Cypriot food blog friend Ivy's recipe (beetroots roasted until soft then peeled and preserved in half-and-half balsamic and red-wine vinegar and a little salt), and the sliced tomato and cucumber that sat dewily on a small plate.

So I did. It's not difficult, and it's certainly tasty – given extra zing by the garlic that I had pulled out of the earth only last night and the cucumbers just plucked from the vine: take half a kilo of strained yoghurt and empty it into a bowl (glass looks nice, or a pretty dark, glossy blue). Grate two cucumbers and squeeze out the excess water. Add them, and a tablespoon of dried mint, to the yoghurt. Finely mince some garlic (I used about a quarter of a clove), add a small glug of olive oil, and a few twists of the salt grinder. Mix well and taste. If you like it, it's good. If not, add what's missing – a little more garlic or salt, probably.

I heated some Paphos pitta-breads – much fluffier than those found in other parts of Cyprus – and that was lunch. Yesterday we had some garden zucchinis fried with scrambled eggs (take two medium zucchinis and slice them finely with a sharp knife or mandoline, fry them in butter until they colour. Meanwhile, break four eggs in a bowl and beat them with a little milk. When the zucchinis are slightly brown, add the eggs and let them all scramble softly together with a few twists of the salt and pepper grinder. Serve hot.) which went beautifully with a village salad of tomato, cucumber, and pepper chunks sprinkled with crumbled feta and a scattering of oregano leaves.

In a little while I will go out the the garden and pick parsley for Best Beloved to take to Nicosia. Somewhat anaemic because of his Thalassaemia gene, he craves parsley, and will devour taboulleh, the Lebanese salad made with mint, parsley, bulghur wheat, and tomato, by the bucket. I usually make him some on Monday morning, and tomorrow will make enough for us to enjoy as well.

I can't wait for the aubergines to be ready with their endless possibilities for dips, salads, and fritters.

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