greek salad is a favourite of mine. in greece, that is. whenever i order one here in switzerland, disappointment hits me hard. it’s usually a dull combination of badly ripened vegetables from northern european greenhouses, topped with a solid brick of feta cheese that has been kept in a plastic wrapper for months.
but there is hope. with a little bit of research and creativity, you can make your home-made greek salad taste of a wonderful summer holiday on the cyclades.
this is how it works:
1. buy only the best vegetables. get organic tomatoes, bell peppers and cucumbers, and make sure they are ripe and colourful. if you buy them from the market, you may even ask to taste them before purchase.
2. buy kalamata olives (in switzerland, the organic ones from coop are quite tasty) and good organic capers (alnatura/migros sell organic ones in switzerland, but you can also go to the market and try to find the larger caper fruits at one of the mediterranean food stalls).
3. forget the balsamico. greek salad is made with red wine vinegar. buy a good quality – my favourite in switzerland is the organic one from globus.
4. marinate your feta. it’s very hard to find anything but the brick-like feta in plastic anywhere in central/northern europe – so it’s all about how you make this solid brick taste more like the aromatic, crumbly and fresh feta you like to eat on the greek islands. here is how i do it: i buy the organic feta from coop, unpack it, slice it in two halves, put the two halves on a plate and pour a decent amount of good olive oil over them. then i add salt and mediterranean herbs (a wonderful two-in-one is the mediterranean flavour salt from es trenc on the spanish island of mallorca). turn the feta slices in the marinade and then leave to marinate for at least 30 minutes.
now that you know what makes your salad better than average, here’s the recipe:
1 large cucumber
1 bell pepper
1 large red onion
150g kalamata olives
1 brick feta (ca. 150g) – marinated
salt, pepper, red wine vinegar and olive oil to season
chop your tomatoes, cucumber (if it’s organic, do not peel it completely. by peeling off stripes only, you get a nice pattern), bell pepper and onion. try to keep your chunks and slices fairly large – that will give a better look to your salad. add olives and capers, and place the feta on top of the salad bowl. serve with salt, pepper, oil and vinegar (everybody should be allowed to season their own portion) and some slices of fresh baguette. now take a bite, close your eyes and imagine sitting on a terrace in santorini!
this is one that i have been longing to make – but it is terribly hard to find fresh courgette flowers at the market. however, last friday happened to be my lucky day, and i managed to buy a whole tray of these delicious, brightly coloured flowers. it’s really easy to turn them into a lovely meal, and my stuffing is just a mere suggestion…
stuffed courgette flowers with wensleydale
12 courgette flowers
4 large champignons
1 small red onion
1 garlic clove
1 tbsp fresh coriander
150g wensleydale cheese (grated)
carefully unfold the flowers and remove their stamen (it is not inedible, but tends to be a bit bitter). brush away dirt (if necessary). chop up champignons, onion, garlic and coriander and mix in a bowl. add 2 tbsp of wensleydale and stir the stuffing. place about 1 tbsp of stuffing inside each of the courgette flowers. gently twist the petals to encase the stuffing and place flowers in an oven dish. cover flowers with the rest of the wensleydale and bake at 200°C for 15 minutes. serve with a green salad or home-made fries.
ps. the best wenselydale in zurich is available from the british cheese centre at the viadukt market!
spring is finally on its way – time to explore! and where could you better enjoy those first warm and sunny days than on a little terrace next to a «gracht» (canal) in amsterdam? but beware: finding a nice café with a terrace might take a while, and there is often a whole bunch of people already queueing up for those few seats in the sun… here are my fab four when it comes to sunny seats with a tasty vegetarian nibble:
serves a decent veggie burger, nice nibbles of cheese and spring rolls – and a lovely white wine that tastes even better on that bench right next to the entrance. once you have conquered a seat, you might not want to leave it before the sun sets on the amstel…
café de jaren
nieuwe doelenstraat 20
one of the best places for «broodjes» the dutch answer to the sandwich. very nice soups, too. also has a large salad buffet and a vegetarian lasagna. rumour has it that amsterdam’s best terrace is the two-floor wooden deck at the back of this spacious and airy café. prepare to be patient as half the city is lining up to get a seat!
toos en roos
charming café with healthy food (great sandwiches and soups – try the breakfast if you get there early) in the lovely «nine streets» area. get one of the few benches facing the herengracht and enjoy checking out the quirky people of amsterdam.
slightly more posh place just off the busy leidsestraat (one of the city’s main shopping streets). great for a glass of wine after shopping – nice vegetarian nibbles available. don’t forget to wave at the tourists floating by on canal boats!
neal’s yard remedies has been one of my favourites for years. unfortunately, they do not export or deliver to switzerland, so i have to rely on friends or get my own whenever i’m in england. i usually buy the almond moisturiser (perfect for sensitive, allergy-prone skin), some lip gloss, some body lotions and food supplements.
but now, i have discovered something new – the «create your own ointment» tub. i had been looking for a good evening primrose ointment for years, but the only decent one i could find here in switzerland was the one from susanne kaufmann (available in zurich from hans mars), and that comes at a steep price.
evening primrose oil does wonders to sensitive, dry skin during our swiss winters, so for the past two years i literally «invested» my money in this cream whenever my arms and my lower legs got too itchy and flaky to bear with. but now, thanks to the tub from neal’s yard, i am saving about two thirds of what i used to spend – and i even get certified organic and cruelty-free ingredients! all you need is to buy that tub and a bottle of organic evening primrose oil (also available there). to make it even better, i bought some rosehip oil, too (lots of vitamin e; great for healthy, glowing skin). add 40 drops of both oils to the tub, stir well (a chopstick helps) – done! definitely the best natural ointment i’ve ever used…
it’s been a busy few weeks… after a trip to britain, i had to catch up on a lot of work, and cooking has not been on top of my «to do» list recently. but a healthy diet is even more important when things get busy, so i have been looking for snacks and nibbles that are quick, healthy and tasty and will keep me going for that extra hour. the «hummus slice» has become one of my favourites; i currently have it as a second breakfast (in switzerland, we call it «znüni») almost every day. a slice of protein-rich bread, some hummus from the supermarket (coop’s vegetarian line «karma» offers three different flavours) and a spoonful of linseed/flaxseed (available from the organic/health shop). protein, fiber, iron, omega 3, folic acid, manganese – this little slice is full of benefits for your vegetarian body and low in calories. and it tastes just great – because healthy food is even healthier when it’s yummy!
it’s a brave new organic world here in switzerland – even rolled out pizza dough comes organic at my local supermarket. and now my coop sells this wonderful organic «salsa alla pizzaiola» (see image below), so making my own pizza has become a habit. it’s so much nicer than buying convenience pizza – and it only takes a minute longer. great for leftovers, too! mine comes with mushrooms, spring onion, bell pepper and a few capers – and of course a decent layer of grated cheese! it’s a great and easy dinner on one of those days where you’ve worked your vegetarian a*** off and just want to relax with a generous amount of comfort food – just stick it in the oven and enjoy!
yesterday, the guardian ran an article on singer morrissey’s latest outbursts against meat-eaters. the newspaper quotes him as comparing carnivorism with paedophilia, suggesting that jamie oliver should stick one of his children into the microwave instead of a beef roast an so on.
while i totally agree with morrissey about the fact that the industrial breeding and killing of animals for the sole reason of eating them is a form of mass murder and truly disrespectful of life itself, i dislike his misanthropic and often utterly violent remarks and his negative attitude. those remarks will only harden the position of carnivores. they will not listen to someone like morrissey, because they feel insulted and threatened. instead, they will continue to call all vegetarians unworldly hippies who can’t enjoy a good steak.
my decision to become a vegetarian arose from a positive feeling towards all sentient beings. it arose from a need to respect all forms of life as much as i possibly can. yes, animals also kill other animals in order to survive or simply to eat them. and, as most meat-eaters will tell you, humans are just animals in the end – so why not kill other animals and eat them?
but humans should know better, they have reason and conscience and that alone should make them understand that this deduction is not logical. smart humans should know that mass meat production is horrid and will eventually ruin the «human» in humanity (just like all unprovoked violence directed against other humans does, too).
smart humans should be able to understand that our race might have evolved as carnivores, but that we have also evolved to learn and unterstand that meat is not essential to our diet. there is no physical need to eat meat in our modern world, and given all the food scandals, living on a vegetarian diet is a lot healthier nowadays. our bodies don’t need meat – so why not stop all the killing?
if we really want to make a change, if we want to make people aware of why a vegetarian diet is the logical conclusion, we must not make the same mistakes as those who propagandise the serial killing of animals as a need for the human race. violence is violence, no matter whether it is directed against animals or humans. a vegetarian should respect the life of all animals, including the ones named «homo sapiens». the «sapiens», by the way, means «wise» – and to stop eating animals is one of the wisest decisions i have ever taken.
it was the holiday. we ate. a lot. a lot of healthy stuff. all organic – and all wrapped in tons of plastic. i don’t get why both coop and migros (the two leading supermarkets in switzerland) have to wrap all this plastic around my food. they say in statements that it is to «protect» us organic consumers from conventional veggies. they put a plastic wrapper around the plastic tray that holds my four organic tomatoes to make sure that no non-organic food will accidentally end up in my basket. they also don’t believe in more eco-friendly packaging as it is either «not safe» or «less economic». they pretend it is to make my veggies last longer – but instead they go mouldy if you don’t free them from all that plastic as soon as you get home.
i am upset by the amount of plastic that i have to consume just to get healthy food. and i am seriously considering buying more veggies from the organic shop – even though it’s twice as expensive. at least they weigh my veggies without putting them into a plastic bag – and most wrappers there are made of recycled paper anyhow.
plastic is an issue. and we don’t need to become unworldly hippies to show some awareness. over the last year, i managed to refuse about 90 percent of the plastic bags i was offered in shops – because i had remembered to bring my own canvas tote (just keep one in your handbag at all times). i tried to avoid buying things that come in double (or even triple!) packaging, i tried to not use any of those «useful» little plastic bags in the supermarkets (just weigh your veggies and place the sticker on one of them – the women at check-out may find you weird, but they usually keep quiet).
this next year, i want to do even better. i want to think twice whenever something i need comes in a double plastic wrapper. and i want to favour shops that renounce this excess of plastic.
happy new year!
ps. did you know that plastic bags are banned in bhutan?
yesterday, the swiss daily «tagesanzeiger» published an article about the «green revolution» in swiss haute cuisine. the author (not a vegetarian) writes that more and more top swiss restaurants offer a selection of vegetarian dishes or maybe even a complete vegetarian menu. it’s the second time this year that tagesanzeiger is trying to create a hype around the topic (they are also guilty of having introduced the word «flexitarian» to my country), and i am getting a bit annoyed. while it is true that more and more good restaurants offer dishes for vegetarians, we are nowhere close to a «green revolution». zurich is not, as the author claims, a «wonderful destination» for vegetarians (apart from its truly wonderful vegetarian restaurants, of course). in most local restaurants, the choice is between pasta and risotto. and even though some of the fancy restaurants brag about their vegetarian menu, it is very rarely worth the money (most vegetarian menus in zurich’s fancy restaurants come at over 100 chf for a four- or five-course dinner – per person). i don’t find it «revolutionary» that classy restaurants now offer a main course (A main course, not two or three!) for my kind. and i sure don’t find it revolutionary that even those praised haute cuisine restaurants still seem to believe that a vegetarian diet consists mainly of pasta, rice and potatoes.
eating out in a fancy restaurant is often disappointing for a vegetarian, and that «green revolution» has clearly not shown up at my doorstep yet. nevertheless, i did experience one of those rare exceptions a couple of days ago. therefore, i strongly recommend the vegetarian menu at the omnia in zermatt. you don’t get just one dish, you get a separate vegetarian menu with three choices for every course – just like the carnivores get three choices. vegetarian dishes come at a very fair price (we paid around chf 100 for a three course dinner plus cheese for two, excluding drinks – and this is a fancy five star place in an expensive alpine resort). the flavours are exceptional, inspiring and surprising, and i will definitely try to recreate some of those dishes in my own kitchen.
i may not have spotted that vegetarian revolution yet, but i am willing to keep the faith after that dinner experience!
looking for a small and useful last minute gift? i am currently head over heels for the wonderful all natural remedy balms by cocooning. this small company from the western part of switzerland makes soaps and bath salts too, but the balms are definitely their best products. they come to cure various aches and troubles (there is one for blistered gardener’s hands, one for a runny nose, one for those sleepless nights etc. etc.) and are presented in lovely little tins with cute and very swiss illustrations – perfect to give away to someone who might need a bit of soothing and pampering. my favourite is currently the «baume d’alfred», a wonderful relief for the strained muscles and tendons on my injured foot.
cocooning balms are available from their website and various resellers all over switzerland – including the changemaker shops.