A simple salad of boiled summer squash dressed with olive oil and red wine vinegar
We love everything about fall. The colours, the warm knit sweaters, the cool crisp air, the fact that you can call it fall or autumn. We love that everyone is busy pumpkin-spicing everything, and baking all manner of apple wonderfulness. But, we love summer too and despite the fact that it’s October and Canadian Thanksgiving is right around the corner, we’ll hang on to summer just a little while longer if you don’t mind.
We love fancy meals that require hours spent in the kitchen, the use of exotic spices, impressive culinary techniques and layer upon layer of textures. We also love unicorns, calorie-less chocolate cake and never-ending supplies of wine. But sometimes, all we get is real life.
Ever wonder what summer tastes like? You might think it’s cool like ice cream, or bursting with citrus zing, but we’re pretty sure that if you could sample the essence of summer on your tongue it would taste like zucchini. Seriously!
Every summer, for as long as we can remember, in our parents’ garden there is a special section devoted for zucchini and other squash. In their current home, where they have been for several years, they actually have what we refer to as an annex to their garden. The back fence bordering their tomatoes and peppers and spinach has been jimmied so that it opens up just wide enough for someone (our dad) to squeeze through. On the other side, at a width of several feet, our parents plant their squash. Here they grow pumpkins, butternut squash, zucchini and all sorts of other colourful and bizarre looking gourds, free and uninhibited; the only other things you will find here are some grape leaf vines and wild flowers. Talk about a secret garden!
Have you noticed that we have a fondness for eggplant? They are so versatile, and so very delicious. This fruit (yes! eggplant is a fruit, and botanically a species of nightshade, a family of flowering plants) can be treated in all sorts of ways, including being fried for eggplant chips, stuffed in yemista, and even used as a substitute for crostini! It also plays well with others, and in this baked vegetable dish, it is combined with zucchini and potato to make one of our families most favourite dishes. We are so excited to share it!
Like many Greeks, we are a gardening family. In our experience, it is rare to find a Greek who has access to even a little bit of land, who doesn’t then use it to plant some sort of vegetable or herb. Even when all that is available is a balcony, eggplants and tomatoes find themselves growing in pots, next to the basil. Gardening is a lovely heritage, and although our parents are the master green thumbs, we do pretty well ourselves; we had wonderful mentors after all.
Some things just don’t translate well from Greek to English, and τσικ τσικ (which phonetically translates to Tsik Tsik) is one of those things. We don’t know where this term originated; in fact, for the longest time we thought that this was our paternal grandmother’s own inventive way of referring to a dish which is a medley of whatever vegetables you have lying around, and some eggs. But we were wrong; it seems that around Messinia (which is where our parents are from), many people refer to this easy, summer meal as tsik tsik.