The Germans occupied the island during World War II and closed the schools, thus ending Zafiris’ formal education. He was in fourth grade. Zafiris’ lack of book learning never held him back; he is a smart, successful farmer and village leader.
A proud self-made man, Zafiris weaves his life into stories. For the last few years, he’s been semi-retired, which gives him more time to share his tales with all who’ll listen.
Like many Greek men, Zafiris holds strong opinions about pretty much everything. His opinions are usually framed by stories that demonstrate how and why his point of view is the only one a reasonable, enlightened person could hold.
If you are bold enough to ask “why” something should be done his way, Zafiris typically responds it’s because his approach is “correct.” No further explanation is necessary or possible.
Despite his semi-retirement, Zafiris’ gardens, pastures, fields and vineyards still supply much of what he and his wife, children, and grandchildren eat every day. He does this because he has always done it, but also to help protect his family’s health. Zafiris explains that store-bought food has limited nutrients when compared to what he grows, which is always picked at its peak of freshness.
Froso, Zafiris’ wife, is a talented cook from whom I have learned much. Since their marriage nearly 50 years ago, Froso has prepared nearly all of Zafiris’ meals. Whether she cooks for the two of them, their large extended family, or their frequent drop-in visitors, Froso consistently serves wonderful food.
Zafiris rarely cooks and enjoys telling funny stories of his abysmal kitchen failures. Of course, Zafiris being Zafiris, he also holds quite definite opinions about the “correct” way to cook pretty much everything.
Although his practical kitchen talents are limited, Zafiris makes one dish well: Zucchini and Eggs. If you complement Zafiris on his Zucchini and Eggs, he’ll patiently explain the key to success is fresh eggs. He uses eggs from Froso’s backyard chicken coop or, when he can find them, from hidden nests in his fields, where Zafiris lets chickens run wild.
Zafiris is right about the fresh eggs, as he is about many things. The flavor of farm-fresh eggs is incomparable, and they are much healthier than eggs from factory farms. I use farm eggs whenever I can find them. Anyone who hasn’t tried farm eggs should seek them out; they’re a revelation about eggs’ depths of flavor. Farmers’ markets and natural food stores are good places to look for them.
Even if you can’t find farm eggs, Zucchini and Eggs is wonderful fare. Zafiris’ recipe makes a quick, easy, and delicious meal, especially when you follow his lead and top the eggs with a healthy squeeze of fresh lemon juice.
Zucchini and Eggs (Κολοκυθάκια με Αυγά)
Serves 2 as a main course or 4 as part of an appetizer spread
2 medium zucchini (1 pound)
3 Tbsp. olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup diced yellow onion, 1/4” dice
Cut the zucchini in 1/2” slices. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Heat the oil in a skillet and add half the zucchini in a single layer. Cook, without disturbing, until the zucchini is browned on the bottom; turn the zucchini over and brown on the second side. Remove to paper towels to absorb excess oil. Repeat with the remaining zucchini.
In the same pan, adding olive oil if necessary, sauté the onions, lightly seasoned with salt and freshly ground black pepper, until they soften and begin to turn golden. Add the cooked zucchini and gently mix the zucchini and onion. Spread the vegetables out evenly over the bottom of the skillet.
Whisk together the eggs, and pour evenly over the zucchini. Sprinkle with a little salt and freshly ground black pepper. Cover, turn down the burner, and cook over low heat until the eggs are set. Slide the Zucchini and Eggs onto a serving platter, cut into quarters, garnish with lemon wedges, and serve immediately.
Zafiris serves Zucchini and Eggs with slices of feta cheese, olives, bread, and a glass or two of ouzo.
This is my entry for Antioxidant Rich Foods/Five-a-Day Tuesdays hosted by Sweetnicks. Eggs are a good source of two antioxidants, lutein and zeaxanthin, which help prevent age-related macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in people over 65. Lutein and zeaxanthin also decrease the risk of cataracts.