I’ve spent more than a decade traveling through Greece (mainly the Greek Islands). Am not of Greek heritage, but quickly fell in love with Greece on my first trip back in 2001. The more trips I made, the more I wanted to see and explore. I was instantly hooked.
Yes, Greece is beautiful. The water, the beaches, the landscape, sublime. Yes, the food is excellent, but by no means flashy or over-the-top. Merely the freshest of ingredients prepared in the simplest of manners. Yes, the people are friendly; in fact, there is a Greek term, filoxenia, (φιλοξενιά) pronounced fee-lohk-sen-YAHA, that literally translates into “love of strangers”, a generosity of spirit. And, yes, maybe it’s that I’m on vacation; when isn’t life good when on vacation? But still, there’s something more.
There’s a strong pull that brings me back year after year.
It’s an inner peace. An appreciation for the simplicity and beauty of life that I so long for here at home. A reminder to slow down, to take the long, meandering, scenic path (through the twisty mountain roads, often lacking guard rails, that give me heart palpitations) and see where it takes me. To realize that it’s okay to not have it all figured out, but to appreciate each day as it comes.
I came across this recipe for green pancakes in Diane Kochilas’a new book Ikaria: Lessons on Food, Life and Longevity from the Greek Island Where People Forget to Die. The title of her book inspired by this 2012 New York Times Magazine article.
Here’s a recap of this inspiring, must read NY Times article:
The story is about a Greek war veteran named Stamatis Moraitis living in the United States. In his mid-60s he was diagnosed with lung cancer. Doctors gave him nine months to live.
Moraitis considered staying in America and seeking aggressive cancer treatment. But he decided instead to return to Ikaria, where he could be buried with his ancestors in a cemetery shaded by oak trees that overlooked the Aegean Sea. Six months came and went. Moraitis didn’t die.
Today (the article was written in 2012), three and a half decades later, Moraitis is 97-years-old — according to an official document he disputes; he says he’s 102 — and cancer-free. He never went through chemotherapy, never took drugs or sought therapy of any sort. All he did was move home to Ikaria.
Coincidence? Luck? Karma? Random chance? Divine intervention? Fate? The Ikarian way of life?? Perhaps yes, perhaps no.
These pancakes are chock full of vegetables. There’s an assortment of greens in the form of swiss chard, fava bean greens (a new discovery of mine), and spinach (you can use any combination of hearty, leafy greens), along with fennel, onion, mint, and dill.
If you have access to wild greens or wild fennel, even better.
Add the batter and mix well…
Serve with a dollop (or quenelle) of thick, strained yogurt…
Kalí óreksi! (Καλή όρεξη!) = Good Appetite!
Ikarian Green Pancakes
Adapted from Diane Kochilas’s Ikaria: Lessons on Food, Life and Longevity from the Greek Island Where People Forget to Die
makes 24, 2-inch pancakes
1 1/2 cups fresh mint, chopped
1 1/2 cups fresh dill, chopped
1 cup fennel bulb, finely chopped
3 cups fresh greens (such as spinach, Swiss chard), finely chopped
2 medium red onions, minced
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cup spelt or whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 scant teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup water
1 large egg, beaten
olive oil for frying
Greek yogurt or feta for serving
Combine the mint, dill, fennel, greens, and onion in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper.
In a separate bowl, mix together the flours, baking powder, and baking soda. Whisk in the water and egg. Season with salt and pepper. Pour the batter into the bowl with the greens and herbs. Stir until well combined.
In a non-stick skillet, heat 2 to 3 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat. Drop heaping tablespoons of batter into the hot oil, 4 to 6 pancakes at a time. Cook 2-3 minutes, until the outside is crisp and dark. Flip and cook another 2-3 minutes, until cooked through. Drain on paper towels. Repeat with the rest of the batter.
Serve with strained yogurt or feta.