Each year, as August transitions into September, we find ourselves reflecting on summer while simultaneously planning for and envisioning what the immediate future has in store. This year in particular, our sense of reflection and anticipation has been magnified in intensity and manifested in ways we never quite imagined.

If there is one underlying constant that this annual regional, seasonal transition inspires in each of us, it is the almost universal desire in each one of us to hang on tight to the last vestiges of summer and to celebrate its simple pleasures for as long as we possibly can. Grilling, backyard barbecues and outdoor dining top the list of many people’s most beloved traditions.

This column is a love letter to the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of a glorious holiday spent on the island of Santorini in Greece. We returned from this magical vacation rested, relaxed, recharged and inspired. We flew home the day before we purchased our house in peaceful, beautifully bucolic Newbury. In retrospect, this was a turning point in our lives and the beginning of a new, and ultimately beautiful, path in life for my family and me.

These recipes ignited a longing in me to return to a simpler time, not so long ago. To relive and reflect upon the simplicity of the outdoor vine-covered tavernas and the purity and vibrancy of the sun, sky, sea, cliffs and caves. To stroll through the whitewashed villages and explore the deserted black volcanic rock beaches, to wake each morning to the peal of medieval church bells. To sense and taste and feel Santorini’s cultural love of its cuisine, a love that is deeply rooted in centuries of tradition.

MEDITERRANEAN CHOPPED SALAD WITH TOASTED CHICKPEAS, RUSTIC OLIVE BREAD CROUTONS AND FRESH HERB VINAIGRETTE

This salad is an amped-up version of the beloved traditional Greek salad. Of all the unforgettable dishes we were blessed with during our getaway, memories of the simply spectacular Santorini Greek salad shine the brightest. The freshest of fresh cucumbers and tomatoes, capers, briny Kalamata olives, oregano, splashes of wine vinegar, and generous glugs of the fruitiest extra-virgin olive oil — each crowned with a creamy, crumbly thick slab of funky, fresh feta. Sensational every time. 

The addition of toasted chickpeas and grilled (or toasted) rustic bread croutons makes this dish ideal for your next backyard barbecue or as a vegetarian entree for an inspired Meatless Monday menu. Omit the feta to make it vegan.

The tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion and zucchini I used in this recipe were all locally grown and freshly harvested by Colby Farm on Scotland Road in Newbury. I picked up the addictive rustic olive bread there, as well, baked fresh that day by Annarosa’s Bakery in Salisbury. I love the farm, the bakery and their partnership.

Servings: 4-6

2 cups medium local cucumbers, cut into 1-inch dice

2 cups local cherry or mini heirloom tomatoes, halved

1 medium local zucchini, cut into 1-inch dice (1 cup)

1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded and cut into 1-inch dice

1 yellow bell pepper, cored, seeded and cut into 1-inch dice

1 orange bell pepper, cored, seeded and cut into 1-inch dice

1/2 red onion, peeled, halved, cut into 1/2-inch dice or very thinly sliced

1/2 cup pitted Kalamata olives, roughly chopped

3 tablespoons capers, drained

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 15-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed, drained and patted dry

2 tablespoons Greek extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 loaf Annarosa’s rustic olive bread, cut into 1-inch cubes (approximately 2 cups)

2-3 ounces Greek feta cheese, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

For the herb vinaigrette:

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/3 cup red wine vinegar

1 tablespoon local honey

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 large clove garlic, peeled and crushed

1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves, minced

1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves

1 tablespoon fresh Italian parsley, minced

1 tablespoon fresh basil (3-4 leaves), minced 

Place the cucumbers and tomatoes in strainers for 1/2 to 1 hour to allow excess liquid to drain off. Pat dry, then place all prepared and chopped veggies, along with the capers, in a large mixing bowl. Season with salt and pepper, and toss to combine. Refrigerate.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Place the chickpeas on a baking sheet, season with a pinch of salt and pepper, and drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Place the bread cubes on a second baking sheet, tossing with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Roast side by side for 20 minutes, tossing halfway through. Set aside.

Add all vinaigrette ingredients to a small lidded jar. Shake vigorously.

Place the salad on a large platter, drizzle 1/2 the salad dressing over the top and toss to coat evenly. Add the chickpeas, croutons and cubed feta, and toss gently. Serve remaining dressing on the side.

CAPRESE BRUSCHETTA WITH OLIVE AND SUN-DRIED TOMATO TAPENADE

This simple, rustic Mediterranean appetizer was inspired by the abundance of juicy, ripe local tomatoes in early September. The sweet tomatoes and mild, creamy mozzarella are scrumptiously contrasted by the robust and textural olive tapenade. This tapenade recipe is more subtle and less "one note" than traditional tapenades because I have replaced the salty, oily anchovies with mildly sweet, plump sun-dried tomatoes and added a little herbaceous fresh basil. 

Tip: I used mini cookie cutters, of varying sizes, to make the mozzarella rounds.

Servings: 3-4

For the bruschetta:

6-8 slices good-quality, rustic baguette, cut into 1/4- to 1/2-inch-thick slices

1 tablespoon Greek extra-virgin olive oil

3-4 small local tomatoes

3-4 mini local tomatoes

4 ounces fresh mozzarella

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 handful fresh basil leaves (torn, julienned or whole)

For the tapenade:

3/4 cup pitted Kalamata olives

1/4 cup packed-in-oil sun-dried tomatoes, drained and julienne cut

2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed

3 tablespoons Greek extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley, torn

1 tablespoon fresh basil, torn

Brush the baguette slices lightly with olive oil on both sides. If grilling, grill over hot coals for approximately 30 seconds to 1 minute, then flip and grill 30 seconds to 1 minute longer. Alternatively, toast in a toaster oven for approximately 3 minutes.

Add all tapenade ingredients to a mini food processor. Pulse 6-8 times, or until well blended but still textural and chunky.

Slice the tomatoes, and cut the mozzarella into small rounds of varying sizes.

Brush the top of each baguette slice with a thin layer of tapenade. Stack the tomatoes and mozzarella in alternating layers, largest to smallest, adding a dab of tapenade between each layer. Season with salt and pepper. Garnish with the basil leaves and a touch more tapenade. Drizzle with additional olive oil if desired. 

MARINATED SEA SCALLOP AND SHRIMP SKEWERS WITH GRILLED MEDITERRANEAN VEGGIES AND LEMON, OLIVE, FETA AND ARUGULA ORZO SALAD

Succulent, meltingly tender New England sea scallops were the inspiration for this dish, brimming with flavors from the Greek islands. The secret to these sensational scallop and shrimp skewers is in the marinade. It is made with a Greek liqueur, ouzo, which tastes and smells very strongly of licorice or anise. Ouzo is something I could never be persuaded to drink, but as the basis of a marinade, trust me, it is utterly irresistible! The intensity of the liqueur is mellowed by the sweetness of the shellfish, the smokiness of the coals and the other marinade ingredients. The results are subtle, yet complex. 

I marinate everything together, the shellfish, the veggies and even the wooden skewers, for maximum flavor. Having wet wooden skewers when grilling is essential to prevent the skewers from catching fire, but every recipe I have ever read calls for soaking them in plain water.

I suggest skewering the scallops and shrimp together and the assorted vegetables on separate skewers, as I find the veggies take longer to cook than the shellfish.

Servings: 4

8-10 wooden skewers

16 sea scallops, similarly sized, patted dry

24 extra jumbo shrimp, thawed, peeled and deveined (tails on)

1 pint local cherry tomatoes

1 large local zucchini, thickly sliced

1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded and cut into 2- to 3-inch strips

1 orange bell pepper, cored, seeded and cut into 2- to 3-inch strips

1 yellow bell pepper, cored, seeded and cut into 2- to 3-inch strips

1 large red onion, peeled and cut into 8 pieces

For the marinade:

1/3 cup Greek ouzo

1/2 cup dry white wine

1/3 cup Greek extra-virgin olive oil

1 lemon, juice and zest

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 teaspoon dried chile pepper flakes (optional)

For the salad:

4 cups water or chicken stock

1 teaspoon salt

2 cups orzo

2 lemons, zest and juice

3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed

2 teaspoons dried oregano

1/4 cup fresh Italian parsley, finely chopped

1/3 cup Greek extra-virgin olive oil

Sea salt and ground black pepper to taste

2/3 cup Greek feta cheese, crumbled

2 cups baby arugula (preferably local)

Whisk all marinade ingredients together in a large roasting pan. Place the skewers, shellfish and vegetables in the marinade. Toss to coat evenly, and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Meanwhile, pour the water or chicken stock and 1 teaspoon salt into a large pot, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the orzo, and cook for 2 minutes less than al dente instructions. Drain, and return to the pot over low heat. Add all salad ingredients, except the feta and baby arugula. Stir, and cover for 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat, uncover, and set aside at room temperature for the flavors to meld and develop.

Prepare a charcoal grill. Place coals in a charcoal chimney, and light. Clean the grill grate, and brush with oil. Prepare 1 scallop and shrimp skewer per person and 1-2 veggie skewers per person. Brush with marinade.

Once the coals are glowing, dump into the grill and place skewers on grate. Cook shellfish skewers for approximately 2-3 minutes, then flip, cooking for 2 minutes more. The shrimp will turn pink, and the scallops will firm up and become opaque. Remove. Grill the vegetable skewers for 3-4 minutes, flip and cook for 2-3 minutes longer.

To serve, transfer orzo to a large serving platter or bowl, add the arugula and feta, toss to combine, and season with additional salt and pepper to taste. Place the skewers on top of the salad.

AUTHENTIC GREEK PORK SOUVLAKI WITH TZATZIKI SAUCE AND GRILLED PITA BREAD

Grilled pork souvlaki is out of this world! Marinated, locally and humanely raised pork is grilled on skewers to slightly charred, juicy perfection. 

The vibrant, juicy, local pork and fragrant, uber-ripe local herbs and vegetables from Colby Farm and Three River Farmers Alliance make all the difference between good and phenomenal. Three River is an organization of community-based farmers and culinary artisans based in southern New Hampshire and offering a vast array of locally sourced meats, dairy, prepared foods, produce and more, delivered weekly right to your front door.

The aroma of these skewers cooking on our grill brought forth happy memories of our peaceful, romantic, adventurous trip to Santorini. We love to grill outdoors, preparing our healthy and delightful dinners while hanging out in our backyard, listening to music and watching the sun set. That is my idea of a perfect evening, the next best thing to a Greek island getaway.

Servings: 4

4-6 wooden skewers

2 pounds local, bone-in pork chops (about 2-3 chops)

For the marinade:

1/4 cup dry white wine

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 lemon, zest and juice

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed

1 teaspoon dried oregano

3-4 sprigs fresh oregano

3-4 sprigs fresh thyme

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon chile pepper flakes (optional)

For the sauce:

1 medium local garden cucumber

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 cup plain Greek whole-milk yogurt

2 large cloves garlic, peeled and crushed

3 tablespoons extra-virgin Greek olive oil

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/3 cup fresh dill, finely chopped

1 tablespoon fresh mint, finely chopped (optional)

For serving:

2-3 medium local garden tomatoes, sliced

1 medium local garden cucumber, thinly sliced

1/2 red onion, thinly sliced

1 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 ground black pepper

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons minced fresh oregano, dill or mint

4 (8-inch) pita breads

1-2 ounces feta cheese, crumbled (optional)

In a large rectangular baking dish, combine all the marinade ingredients. Place the skewers in the marinade.

Cut the pork away from bones, trim away excess fat and cut into 1- to 2-inch cubes. Pat dry. Place in the marinade, and toss until cubed pork is evenly coated with marinade on all sides. Cover, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 24.

Place charcoal in a charcoal chimney, light and heat your coals for 20-25 minutes. Scrape the grill grate clean, and brush with oil.

Meanwhile, prepare the tzatziki sauce. Grate or finely dice the cucumber, sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt and drain in a strainer for 10 minutes, then squeeze out excess water with a clean kitchen towel. Place in a small glass or nonreactive bowl, and add all additional sauce ingredients. Gently combine, cover and refrigerate.

Season the tomatoes, cucumber and red onion with salt, pepper, a drizzle of olive oil and minced fresh herbs. Place on a large serving platter.

Once coals are glowing orange and starting to generate ash around the edges, dump coals into grill. Skewer marinated pork, and place directly on oiled grill grate. Cook for 2-3 minutes per side, approximately 10-12 minutes total. Place the pita breads around the perimeter of your grill for approximately 30 seconds per side. (Be careful, they tend to burn quickly.)

Place everything on the serving platter, including ramekins and small serving spoons for the tzatziki sauce and crumbled feta, and allow your guests to customize their pork souvlaki gyros.

Note: You may want to wrap each prepared gyro in parchment paper, as they tend to get very juicy and drippy.

Allison Lehane lives in Newbury, where she is a home cook who is passionate about locally sourced ingredients. Her recipes have been inspired by her world travels through her former career as an international home fashion buyer for TJX Corp. Contact her at highroad198@icloud.com.

React to this story:

0
0
0
0
0

Recommended for you