Last summer I had the good fortune to visit the Greek island of Hydra. Hydra has outlawed motor vehicles, so if you want to get somewhere, you either walk or hire a water taxi, and if you want to move something heavy, you hire a donkey and its handler. The lack of engines makes the island blissfully quiet, except for the morning chorus of roosters strutting their stuff on the hillsides and an occasional complaining bleat from a donkey tired of being roped up in the shade.
I had never been to Greece before. The seawater here IS navy blue. The hillsides are barren and rocky, with scraggly pine and olive trees clinging to the cliffs, scrubby bushes, and blooming succulents. It’s a fishing village, so as you walk, the smell of either fresh fish, or grilling fish is in the air. There are cats everywhere--skinny cats of every color combination with long legs and long slender tails. They loll around the pier, looking for fish scraps, or roll on their backs beguilingly in the sun. They sleep on the cushions of chairs in outdoor restaurants.
Because Greece has limited farmable land, Greek couisine has limited ingrediants: chicken, lamb, cucumbers, tomatoes, onion, feta, olives, and olive oil, and an amazing variety of fish. And lemons. Oh, what a wonderful use of lemons!
(the aftermath of my fish dinner one night)
Below is a recipe for Greek Lemon Chicken Soup, adopted from a recipe on allrecipies.com. In Greece, the soup has a clear broth and a little bit of rice. I like a hearty soup, so I've made some changes to the recipe.
8 Cups Chicken Broth
1/2 Cup Fresh Lemon Juice
2 Tablespoons Olive oil
2 Carrots, sliced
1/2 Cup chopped onion
1/2 Cup chopped celery
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1/4 Cup softened butter (you can halve this, but don't leave it out!)
1/4 Cup flour
1 Cup diced cooked Chicken
8 Egg yolks
1/2 C Orzo
Lemon slices, and cilantro for garnish
In a large soup pot, "sweat" the onions, carrots, and celery in the olive oil on low heat for ten minutes. (This will preserve the flavors of the vegetables). Add the chicken broth, lemon juice, and white pepper. Simmer for 30 minutes. (If you wish to have a clear broth, simmer on a very low boil in a covered pot for 60 minutes and strain the vegetables out of the liquid.)
Add the cooked chicken cubes. (I like to oven-fry boneless skinless breasts in olive oil and season them with salt, pepper, and garlic powder to give them a great flavor.)
Blend the butter and flour. Gradually add the blended mixture to the soup. Simmer for 10 minutes, stirring frequently.
Beat the egg yolks until light in color. Keeping the eggs in a separate bowl, add a small amount of the soup liquid to the eggs and stir. Continue stirring and add a little more soup liquid to the eggs. (This keeps the eggs from being cooked into clumps in the hot liquid.) Put the egg mixture in the soup pot. Add the Orzo to the simmering soup, and cook for its recommended time. (You can use 1 Cup cooked rice if you like, but I like the consistency of Orzo.)
Ladle soup into bowls and garnish with lemon slices and a sprig of cilantro.
Parts of this post were previously posted in my OS entry, "Re-Learning to Wait."
Text and all images of Greece copyright voicegal, 2011