We had arrived a couple of days earlier. It was Steve’s first time in my hometown and I was driving him around, showing him the places where I grew up. It was a beautiful, sunny spring day and we were walking around the old part of the city. It had gone through many transformations, from the bustling commercial center of town to a neglected ghost of its past glory, until several years ago it was turned into a pedestrian-only zone. There was a lot of complaining from the store owners, that the lack of cars would kill the little business they had left. Instead, the area transformed itself. Old buildings were restored. Restaurants and coffee shops opened everywhere. People rediscovered the joy of walking, unencumbered by cars. Retro became cool and the area blossomed.
So there we were, walking along the “main” street (what used to be a narrow, single-lane road, but the “main” one nevertheless) when we decided to look for a place to eat. We passed by a few places, with tables out on the street, awash in sunshine, but we decided to keep looking. We turned the corner into a little side street when Steve spotted it. It was not much. An old (really old), low building in the back of an alley, with a concrete floor yard, covered with thatched straw, providing a welcome shade for us. It was a small restaurant that opened for lunch and sold just a few homemade dishes, simple and traditional, enough to feed the motley crew of locals that were hanging out outside. We took a table and ordered.
I don’t remember what else we ate there. But I do remember that we ordered kolokouthkia me t’afka (zucchini with eggs). It seemed an unremarkable choice for me. It was something I grew up with, a quick solution for a meal when my mom was pressed for time. But I also remember Steve’s face when he took his first taste. His eyes lit up with that look of amazement and discovery we both get when we taste something remarkable. “Why have we not had this before?” he said. Truth was, I had forgotten about it. Needless to say, we have had this dish many times every since.
There were a lot of memories made on that trip. There were the drives through villages redolent with the aroma of orange blossoms. There was the lunch on top of a rock overlooking the Mediterranean Sea as we watched a storm approach. But before all of those there was this, the simple meal of zucchini with eggs, cooked in olive oil and showered with fresh lemon juice.
Zucchini with Eggs (Kolokouthkia me t’afka)
Makes 2 servings
Half a medium onion, chopped
1 large zucchini (about 10oz-12oz/280gr-340gr)
4 large eggs
1/4 cup olive oil
salt and pepper
Cut the zucchini in half lengthwise and then slice crosswise very thin (about 1/8″) using a very sharp knife or a mandolin. Whisk eggs in a small bowl with some salt and pepper and set aside.
Heat olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add chopped onion and cook for about 2 minutes until onion just begins to soften but hasn’t started to brown yet. Increase heat to medium-high and add the zucchini. Season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring often, until zucchini is cooked and lightly browned at the edges (about 15-17 minutes).
Reduce heat to medium and add eggs. Cook, stirring often, until eggs are cooked through, about 2-4 minutes.
Serve immediately with lots of fresh lemon juice squeezed on top (we use the juice of an entire lemon for two servings).