Following our Athens warmup, well rested and ready for island adventures, we set off for Crete, the largest and most southern of the Greek Islands (150 miles long and 25 miles at its widest point). There are 2 airports in Crete; Chania, on the northwestern coast and Heraklion in the northeast. If you're into archeology and want to visit the old world spots like the ancient capital and palace of Knossos (pr: Kuh-nuh-SOS), you may want to stay and fly into Heraklion. Otherwise, for all things nature and hikes and beautiful aqua blue coves slightly cooler than bath water over pink sand beaches, go west to Chania
This feels like a concentrated pesto, minus nuts (although you can add those too) that you can subtly boost the flavors of red meats or roasted veg. Instead of thyme, you can also sub in and out sweeter herbs like marjoram or mint. I sub mint in for thyme and use it to top racks of lamb or lamb burgers, sprinkle roasted cauliflower, or any wintery vegetable based soup.
Sunchokes, also called Jerusalem artichokes (even though they have nothing to do with either Jerusalem or artichokes), are probably my favorite vegetable out there. They're roots of sunflowers and look knobby and tuberous like ginger. Eaten raw, they're nutty and crunchy and super delicious, crispy like a water chestnut with a mild sweet nutty flavor. I love slicing them thin with a mandolin into salads like you would radishes.
I had never heard of a sunchoke (also called Jerusalem artichoke) until my first bite during my stage (aka internship) at The Spotted Pig. Their fall menu featured an escarole salad with roasted sunchokes, bitter parsley, capers, and a creamy and bright lemon dressing. It was one of the best, simplest salads of my life and the humble sunchoke was the unremitting star.
The burnt oranges and shades of the turning trees in the autumn always point me to the colorful root vegetables dotting the stands at the Union Square Greenmarket. Carrots, in particular, are everywhere - in shades of purple, orange, red, and yellow. I never appreciated carrots with their sweet flavor until I started roasting them. Roasting carrots with honey and butter brings out their nuttiness and sweetness.
Gigante beans (aka massive Giant Greek style baked beans) seem about as Greek and homey as spinach pie or raki (pr: Rah-KEE, Greece's version of moonshine, made from the leftover skins, twigs, and mash from Grapes. They don't waste anything). Every place that had them, they were the star of the meal. For a game, Alicia and I had a rating system of our favorite beans. If you fly into Crete, you'll most likely fly into the north coast town of Chania. Ruled by the Turks and then the Venetians, the history alone paints such a gorgeous colorful landscape here.