Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Zafiris’ World: Recipe for Zucchini and Eggs (Κολοκυθάκια με Αυγά)

Zafiris is a man of his island, his village and his times. Except for a brief, much remembered, stint in the Greek Army, he’s spent his entire life in the village.

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
4 eggs
Lemon wedges

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.


Lisa said...

I just can't get enough eggs. In fact, I pretty much eat them every single day. During the week, I usually just fry some up for breakfast but when I have more time, I really enjoy making something a little fancier. A very nice recipe that I am happy to learn about.

Peter G said...

He sounds like a real character Laurie! There always seems to be one in every greek village. The zucchini and eggs work well together. My dad also squeezes lemon over everything!

Lulu said...

This looks easy and tasty. And I wonder if those fresh farm eggs mightn't have more of the antioxidants than industrial eggs? Great lead-in story!

Maria V said...

great food, great story! these people are gems in society, aren't they!

Joanna said...

Lovely eggs - I'll be making this as soon as the courgettes start producing ... it's that squeeze of lemon :)


Peter M said...

Zafiris is "da man"...I can myself knocking back a few drinks with him!

This omelet works for me as a brunch or meze...gotta try this!

Anonymous said...

Oh, I love the sound of this recipe. I'm definitely going to try it. Zafiris and his wife sound like very interesting people. Thanks for the recipe!


Sam Sotiropoulos said...

Laurie, I just made this omelette for breakfast and it was delish! Thanks for the posting!

Lannae said...

Wow, that looks good! I had a tapas dish similar to this but with diced potatoes. I have never made an egg skillet tart like this before, but I think I can now. Hmm, perhaps it will be what it for dinner this weekend!

Anonymous said...

I made this dish for dinner last night. Loved it!


Tay said...

Oh, my mouth is watering and my eyes are full of tears. Last year at this time I was in Greece. Reading this post made me miss it SO MUCH. *sigh* I dream of having your arrangement, 1/2 the year there on a sleepy island and half here in the city of Portland...

thanks for the great recipes and stories, Laurie. Hope you are well.

Laurie Constantino said...

Lisa, I'm also pretty big on eggs, although every day is more than I do. The next eggs I make will be your recipe with mushrooms, which looks so incredibly good.

Peter G, I love Zafiris and Froso with all my heart - they are really wonderful people.

Lulu, I would bet big money that farm eggs are more nutritious than factory eggs.

Maria, thanks!

Joanna, yes, the squeeze of lemon really adds a lot.

Peter, you'd have an entertaining evening drinking with Zafiris!

Paz, I'm so glad you liked it - it's always wonderful to get feedback from cooks.

Sam, quick, easy, and delicious - my kind of food.

Lannae, yes, potatoes would be good in it. This is really easy to make, so it's great when you're in a hurry.

Tay, you had such a good trip to Greece, in part because you set out on your own with an open heart. I'm betting you make it back!

Anonymous said...

compared to the rustic, robust greeks, the italian version always seems a little gentler: peel zuchinni, slice in half lenghtwise, and then make 1/4 inch slices crosswise on a diagonal. saute with onion while prepping eggs, which are then "coddled" until cooked. season to taste with salt and pepper. serve with good, crusty semolina bread.

tiny glasses of ouzu are lifted, mingling references with past and future alliances, and wafting aromas entice the senses to a table filled with life.

which island is your friend from?

Laurie Constantino said...

Anonymous, the Italian version sounds great, especially with semolina bread, which I love. "Wafting aromas entice the senses to a table filled with life" exactly captures the ambiance at Zafiris' table. For island info, please email me directly.