One bleak winter day when I was perusing the rather barren and uninspiring aisles of a local supermarket, I came across some packages of caveman-like marrow bones at dirt-cheap prices in the meat section. I was ecstatic because on a trip to Boston I had recently dined on fabulous marrow bones at the Eastern Standard restaurant in the always welcoming Hotel Commonwealth. I immediately snatched up the packages and set to figuring out how best to prepare them as an unexpected dinner treat. I was so thrilled with the results that I ended up preparing the same recipe for 125 people when the Nantucket Wine Festival invited me to come up with a dish to pair with Au Bon Climat’s 2006 La Bauge Au-dessus Pinot Noir at their annual May tasting event. The prep kitchen for the wine tasting was not on the premises and transporting huge and heavy roasting pans filled with the marrow bones on foot over Nantucket’s one-way lanes to the site was not an undertaking I would wish to repeat.
Suffice it to say, I have since stuck to roasting smaller batches of marrow bones in the cozy familiarity of my own kitchen. I can happily make a decadent dinner out of two or three roasted marrow bones served with a small but invigorating herb and caper salad, a combination inspired by British chef Fergus Henderson. Otherwise, I serve a single marrow bone as an appetizer with a glass of excellent pinot noir to friends adventuresome enough to appreciate it. Serves 8 as an appetizer or 3 or 4 as an unconventional but great dinner
2 shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
8 center-cut beef marrow bones (each 2½ to 3 inches tall; about 4 pounds total weight)
3½ tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Crunchy sea salt, such as fleur de sel and freshly cracked black peppercorns
1 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
⅓ cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
2 ounces (about 1 cup) fresh pea shoots (optional but a great addition when available)
1 tablespoon brine-packed capers, drained
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
8 slices (½ inch thick) crusty bread, such as ciabatta, toasted
Place the shallots in a bowl of ice water and let stand for 15 to 20 minutes to soften the sharpness of their raw flavor.
Preheat the oven to 425°F, preferably an oven with a convection setting. Line a rimmed baking sheet with heavy-duty aluminum foil.
Place the marrow bones in a mixing bowl, drizzle 11/2 tablespoons of olive oil over them, and then toss to coat them lightly all over. Season the marrow bones all over with crunchy salt and cracked peppercorns. Arrange the marrow bones, marrow-side-up, on the prepared baking sheet. Roast the marrow bones until the marrow is soft and light golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes. Take care not to roast the bones too long or the marrow will begin to bubble out of the bones like lava from a volcano
While the marrow bones are roasting, prepare the herb and caper salad: Drain the shallots and pat them dry with paper towels. Place the shallots in a salad bowl, add the parsley, cilantro, pea shoots, if using, and capers and toss to mix. Just before serving, toss the salad with the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil and the lemon juice and season it with flaky sea salt to taste.
To serve, scatter a bit of the salad over each of 8 salad plates or 3 or 4 larger plates if you are serving the marrow bones as a main course. Center 1, 2, or 3 roasted marrow bones on top. Scatter more salad over the marrow bones and place 1 or 2 pieces of toast and a scant 1/2-teaspoon mound of crunchy salt on the edge of each plate. To savor, scoop out the marrow with a small spoon or palette knife and spread it on the toast. Season the marrow with a bit of the sea salt and top it with some of the herb salad. Enjoy immediately.
(* From New England Open-House Cookbook by Sarah Leah Chase-Workman Publishing- June 2015)
After a winter hiatus since northern European Edinburgh piece, 10 Do's and Don'ts return by traveling south to Athens as in Athens, Greece not Georgia. We owe this guided tour of Athens to Alexandra Stratou.
Alexandra is the author of Cooking with Loula, Greek Recipes from my Family to Yours (Artisan Books/ May 3, 2016). She self-published the original edition of Cooking with Loula, called Cooking to Share after a Kickstarter campaign in 2013).
Do’s and Don’ts Athens By Alexandra Stratou
Take one of the thematic city tours with Big Olive to learn more about Greek art, architecture, literature, history, cuisine and contemporary culture on foot.
Go to the Varvakios market to scope out their fresh fish, meat, and vegetables, and then have lunch at Diporto, one of the most epic restaurants in town. Just look for the unmarked restaurant with two doors and a fixed menu of tomato salad, chickpeas, and fish.
Go to the temple of Poseidon in Sounio around sunset; life will pause for you to marvel in the beauty.
Buy a souvlaki from Kostas, eat a koulouri (round sesame bread with a hole in it) in the street, and order the lamb chops at Elias in Thissio.
Visit the Acropolis Museum and the Cycladic Museum to get your dose of the ultimate ancient Greek cultural achievements. For some early 20th century Greek art, visit the Ghika’s exhibition at Benaki Museum and explore the contemporary art scene at the Eleftheria Tseliou Gallery.
Watch a performance at the Odeon of Herodes Atticus – the seats are decidedly uncomfortable, but how many times in your life will you watch a performance in such an ancient and beautiful place?
Sit at a coffee shop for hours watching passers by. Simply enjoy it.
Say “hi” to Stamatis at Ellinika Kaloudia and take a piece of Greece home with you, in the form of honey, nuts, cheese, wine, or olive oil.
Don’t come to Athens for a day, come for four and really get to know it!
Don’t take a cab from the airport. Go to syntagma with the train or X95 and then take a cab from there to get you where you are going. If you do take a cab make sure the driver turns the meter on and pay exactly what is written on the meter.
Don’t worry, you are not alone: everybody speaks English and is willing to help you.
Don’t feel obliged to buy flowers from gypsies or give money to beggars.
Don’t be deceived by the chaotic façade of Athens, explore the small streets of the city and don’t be afraid to get lost.
Don’t shy away from drinking the local tsipouro you may be offered free before a meal. It is super strong; sip it, don’t down it!
Don’t think that because you are in Athens you are confined to the city. Go on a day trip to Hydra, take a two-hour bus ride to Sounio along the coast, visit a vineyard thirty minutes away (Papagiannakos), climb a mountain.
Don’t be lured into the tourist traps; treat Athens as you would your own city. Don’t take the easy choice in terms of restaurants because you will likely end up eating the worst version of Greek food and that would make me sad.
Don’t venture to the neighbourhood of Monastiraki. Take a long walk around Plaka, instead!
This is only a taste of Athens—there is so much more for you to discover!
Thanks Alexandra for sharing your 10 Do's and Don'ts as Athens celebrates Greek Orthodox Easter...
(* Illustrations, top to bottom, Staicase from Big Olive Walks Facebook page, Kostas Souvlaki from Why Athens, Logo of Benaki Museum from their Facebook page, outdoor movie theater Cine Thissio from their site, Papagiannakos vineyard from their site, Kiki de Grece wine bar from their Facebook page)