WASHINGTON — Winter’s hearty vegetables are out, and delicate greens are in.
It’s spring at the farmers market, and nothing marks the changing seasons quite like an overflowing table of ramps, radishes and garlic scapes, galore.
And while it’s easy to pile pints of strawberries and bunches of broccolini into your basket — How can one resist such temporary treasures? — finding ways to work all the produce into everyday cooking can be tricky.
That’s where Aglaia Kremezi comes in. The author of “Mediterranean Vegetarian Feasts,” lives on the Greek island of Kea. But a few times a year, you can find her in the kitchen at José Andrés’ Zaytinya, where she works closely with the restaurant’s chefs on recipes and techniques, such as making phyllo dough from scratch.
“I became Zaytinya’s grandmother,” Kremezi said about her partnership with Andrés.
In Greek cooking, Kremezi said the go-to ingredients are seasonal ingredients, and one of her favorite meals to make with a fresh garden haul is risotto. Whether you have spring onions, ramps, wilted lettuce or chard in your crisper, chop up the greens and their stems and stir them into a pot of creamy risotto.
“Parsley stems are great; you chop them fine and you cook them together,” Kremezi added.
Another option for using up chopped greens of any kind is to mix them with egg, breadcrumbs and cheese (Kremezi recommends feta). Form the mixture into patties and fry them in a shallow pan of oil to make fritters.
Of course, as the days grow longer and the weather gets warmer, grilling becomes a more popular method of cooking. Kremezi said zucchini and eggplant, both of which come into season in June and July, are great on the grill.
“You cut them in half, you brush them with a little olive oil and you grill them, and then you just serve them with chopped garlic and a little bit of lemon,” she said.
“Besides olive oil, the first thing we have in our kitchen is lemon. There is no way we don’t have lemons in a Greek kitchen.”
Sautéing the eggplant and zucchini in olive oil and baking them into a phyllo dough (Kremezi said you don’t have to make your own from scratch) is another way to make a satisfying seasonal meal. And of course, adding a little cheese to any of your farmers market finds never hurts.
“All these things you see, all these vegetables — eggplants, peppers, zucchini, the greens — go very well with feta cheese,” Kremezi said.
If you like Kremezi’s ideas, but need a little more hand-holding when it comes to execution, she invites everyone to Kea for cooking lessons — yes, really. Twice a year, Kremezi hosts a “cooking vacation,” where she leads guests through instructions, tastings, hikes and more.
Can’t make it to Greece in time for her September session? Put those fresh herbs to good use and bring Greece to your table with Kremezi’s recipe for stuffed grape leaves.
Recipe for Grape Leaves Stuffed with Rice, Tomatoes, and Pomegranate Molasses: