Κυριακή, 27 Μαΐου 2012

H Melia Marden γράφει για την Ύδρα


Για την Αμερικανίδα σεφ Melia Marden, το καλοκαίρι είναι συνυφασμένο με τα ηλιόλουστα γραφικά ελληνικά νησιά, και συγκεκριμένα με την όμορφη Ύδρα.

 Στο blog που διαθέτει στην ιστοσελίδα Bon Appetit, η Melia Marden καταγράφει το δικό της ελληνικό καλοκαίρι και μας αποκαλύπτει το λόγο που λαχταρά να επιστρέφει στην Ελλάδα. 
In the summer of 1970, my mom, Helen, went to visit a friend who was living on a Greek island. As she tells it: "I was going to Spetses, but all the interesting-looking people got off the boat at the stop before." So the next day she took the boat back to Hydra, where she fell in love with the island's beauty. The following year, she brought my dad, Brice, and soon after they bought an old farmhouse in the hills of Kamini. They've returned in the summer to make art and relax ever since.

Luckily for me, I was born into this discovery. A small island in the Saronic Gulf, only two hours from Athens by boat, Hydra sets itself apart with its strict ban on cars, mopeds, even bicycles. Instead we travel by foot and water taxi, hypnotized by the ambient noise of cicadas, roosters, and braying donkeys.

Even before I became a chef, Hydra's main draw for me was the food. Years of eating rustic, family-style meals at seafront tavernas formed the backbone of my approach to cooking at The Smile in New York. While I love the tavernas' grilled fish and lamb chops, I have a soft spot for their simple dishes--vegetables simmered in oily tomato sauce, horta (boiled greens), lemony roast chicken--which are prepared in the morning and sit at just above room temperature until sold out. This food also inspires one of my favorite Hydra experiences: the boat picnics that my family has taken for as long as I can remember.

One morning last summer, we slowly congregated at the Pirate Bar, a cafe on Hydra's bustling port. Early risers sipped fresh orange juice and Nescafe frappes while others found a captain to take us out on his colorful wooden fishing boat, or kaiki, for the day. My sister, Mirabelle, and I had packed most of the food into the barrel-shaped wicker baskets that are sold at produce stands. (I'd enlisted my husband, Frankie, to carry the still-warm chickens in their heavy roasting pans down the 400 stone steps from the house.) My parents strolled up, carrying a worn canvas bag full of sun-faded snorkels and masks.

Once the stragglers were aboard, we traveled for about an hour until we reached Agios Nikolaos beach, my family's favorite spot. While the captain, Tasos, napped, we built up an appetite jumping off the boat's roof into the bracingly cold, salty water. Poppy, a set-designer friend of ours from London, fearlessly dived for sea urchins.

When everyone was sufficiently sun-dazed and hungry, we set up lunch on the wooden box that housed the boat's engine. For this taverna-style picnic, I'd tried to use as much as I could from our garden, as well as the market produce that's never quite the same back in New York: perfectly ripe tomatoes and nectarines, slim violet eggplants, and dense, pale-green zucchini. I'd bought just-plucked chickens from Hydra's local butcher. To flavor them, I'd torn handfuls of sprigs from our overgrown forest of rosemary bushes, shaken lemons from the old tree behind the house, and drizzled the birds with my favorite honey: rich, wild-tasting Attiki, which crisps the skin and gives it a beautiful dark-gold hue. Bunches of tiny-leaved Greek basil had been wrapped in a damp paper towel, ready to be tossed into a simple tomato salad. Finally, I'd attempted to re-create a dish of roasted peppers and peaches that an eccentric family friend used to bring to picnics. (Since fuzzy peaches would have to be peeled, I went with nectarines.)

We heaped our plates and balanced them on our knees, eating, talking, and refilling our plastic cups with retsina, the pine-flavored Greek wine. We swam again before enjoying cherries in almond syrup spooned over thick yogurt. As the sun faded, Tasos revved up the engine and the soft, rhythmic chugging lulled everyone into a stupor. The trip back to the port was, as always, bittersweet with the knowledge that the end of the day would soon lead to the end of the summer and the return to city life. But I was already looking forward to sharing our picnic tradition--and its variations on the same delicious yet simple, familiar food--with new friends and family for years to come. --Melia Marden


Η σεφ αποκαλύπτει πως ανακάλυψε την Ύδρα μέσω της μητέρας της, η οποία με τη σειρά της έμαθε τυχαία για τις ομορφιές του νησιού. Με έμφαση τονίζει ότι αυτό που αγαπά πιο πολύ στο νησί του Αργοσαρωνικού είναι το φαγητό και οι ελληνικές ταβέρνες.  Ελληνικές συνταγές όπως τα χόρτα και το λεμονάτο κοτόπουλο εμπνέουν τη σεφ, αν κι αυτό που την ξετρελαίνει είναι τα λαχανικά του τόπου μας, που μπορεί σε μάς να φαντάζουν δεδομένα, για τους ξένους όμως αποτελούν πραγματικούς θησαυρούς, αφού στην πατρίδα τους δεν είναι ποτέ τόσο νόστιμα και λαχταριστά ακόμα και στην όψη.

Έχοντας ως εφόδια ντομάτες, μελιτζάνες, κολοκυθάκια από τον κήπο της αλλά και κοτόπουλο αρωματισμένο με δεντρολίβανο, λεμόνι και μέλι, η Melia Marden με χαρά κι ανυπομονησία  οργανώνει ακόμη ένα πικνίκ σε καΐκι! Φαγητό, συζητήσεις, βουτιές στη θάλασσα και ένα ποτήρι ρετσίνα ολοκληρώνουν την εξόρμηση της παρέας της, ενώ από το γεύμα δεν θα μπορούσε να λείπει το ελληνικό γιαούρτι, που το συνόδευουν με κεράσια και σιρόπι αμυγδάλου!

Θα κλείσουμε μεταφέροντας τον χαρακτηριστικό επίλογο της Melia Marden: "Το ταξίδι της επιστροφής ήταν όπως πάντα γλυκόπικρο, γνωρίζοντας ότι το τέλος της ημέρας  θα σήμαινε  το τέλος του καλοκαιριού και την επιστροφή στην πόλη. Ήδη, όμως, ανυπομονούσα να μοιραστώ με την οικογένεια και τους φίλους μας τα μελλοντικά πικνίκ σε καΐκια για τα επόμενα χρόνια".

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