Neighborhood Kitchens

Neighborhood Kitchens Visits Oleana

By Margarita Martinez

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Chef Cassie Kyriakides Piuma and Margarita (Patricia Alvarado/WGBH)
 
There are so many amazing restaurants and different neighborhoods in Cambridge that it is no wonder we returned for more inspiration. Just as Muqueca is a bit off of the beaten track, so is our last restaurant of the season: Oleana.  Located on a quiet street in the neighborhood, just a ten-minute walk from the Central Square T-stop, Oleana is a haven for great dining inspired by the flavors of the Middle East and Mediterranean.
 

Executive chef and owner Ana Sortun started Oleana in 2001 and Chef de Cuisine Cassie Piuma began working there two years later, after falling in love with Ana's food as a customer. The excitement of Ana and Cassie is palpable when they talk about the flavors of Turkey, Egypt, Tunisia, Lebanon, and Armenia. It's as if they found a new creative freedom working with the spices and herbs of the Eastern Mediterranean. They now take trips together to discover inspiration for their dishes. These trips also influence what Ana’s husband, Chris Kurth, plants at his farm, Siena Farms.
 
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Ana Sortun, Margarita and Chris Kurth at Siena Farm (Patricia Alvarado/WGBH)
Siena Farms in the Sudbury River Valley supplies almost all of the produce served at Oleana – it is very unique for an urban restaurant to source its own farm for its produce. It was such a treat to visit with Chris and Ana on their lovely organic farm. Siena Farms, named after their daughter, began as a family farm on which Chris was raised. The farm has grown to fifty-acres and is entirely organic. Their produce supplies farmers' markets, restaurants, and CSA communities. Chris and Ana plant what they want to eat themselves and think others will enjoy. They grow a large variety of vegetables with several types of peppers, eggplants, tomatoes, and lettuces, to name a few. While there, Ana and Chris introduced me to an off-the-vine Persian cucumber. I never knew that cucumbers could be so sweet and flavorful! I went home with sungold cherry tomatoes, which taste like candy, and two different kinds of eggplant.
 
After visiting the farm, we returned to the Oleana kitchen to cook with the farm-fresh ingredients. Oleana's kitchen is run by women, a rare occurrence in restaurants. Clad in cut-off pants and polka-dotted socks, Chef Cassie guided me through some of Oleana's signature plates. Vegetables and herbs take center stage at Oleana. The meat, fish, and seafood are almost an accompaniment to the vegetable dishes. One dish we made was Cacik, a perfect yogurt dish for summer that gets its flavor and texture from some of the same fresh vegetables and herbs I enjoyed at Siena Farms. We also prepared a tasty carrot and fennel saganaki with a delicate grilled octopus.  Also, I love spicy peppers, so imagine my delight in learning how to fry up the Turkish street food of fried mussels and tarator sauce (if my husband is reading this, please note that I want a Vitamix blender for my birthday!). Desserts did not make our episode, but when we took breaks I got to feast on the scraps of cake used in Pastry Chef Maura Kilpatrick's famous Baked Alaska while the pastry chefs were preparing for the evening.
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Working on this episode made me intrigued and excited to cook at home with flavors from the Eastern Mediterranean, a region whose cuisine I'm not as familiar with as the others we have featured on Neighborhood Kitchens. While I loved the food at Oleana, I left most inspired by Ana's farm-to-table vision, using the flavors of far-away countries while sourcing ingredients found close to home. Hasta pronto!! 

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Watch Neighborhood Kitchens online to find out more about Oleana, Siena Farms and Cambridge.


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About Neighborhood Kitchens

Building on a 35-year history of producing Latino and multicultural programming, WGBH’s award winning La Plaza team has a new offering — Neighborhood Kitchens, a series about the exploration of culture through food. Every week the show offers a unique window into immigrant communities in New England.

Saturdays at 4pm on WGBH 2
Fridays at 7:30pm on WGBH 44


About the Author
Margarita Martinez Margarita Martinez
Margarita Martinez grew up in the Bronx, NY and Ossining, NY with a Puerto Rican father and a Franco-American mother. She now calls New England home. Margarita has always had an insatiable appetite for travel and food. She made her first empanada as a teenager visiting Argentina, satisfied her sweet tooth with poffertjes and stroopwafels while studying in Holland, engorged herself on Thai street food for a month in Bangkok, and continues to search for authentic international cuisines in the Northeast. Margarita loves to discover new ingredients, flavors, and cooking approaches that she can bring to her own home kitchen.

On the Go

In each episode, host Margarita Martínez visits a different ethnic restaurant and learns three delicious recipes from the chef. She also explores the restaurant’s neighborhood, discovering hidden gems along the way. Join her as she learns about new ingredients, new cultures, and new neighborhoods. ¡Hasta pronto!

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Margarita's Neighborhood Visits

»Boston: Bristol Lounge
»Boston's South End: Orinoco, Teranga and Oishii
»Boston's Back Bay: Casa Romero
»Boston's North End: Taranta
»Roxbury: Merengue
»Boston's Beacon Hill: Scampo
»All Around Boston: Mei Mei Street Kitchens
»Cambridge: Muqueca, Oleana, and Sandrine's
»
Somerville: Dosa Temple
»Lawrence: Cafe Azteca
»Lowell: Simply Khmer

»Fresh from the Fish Market
»Jamaica Plain: Tres Gatos
»Dorchester: Pho Le and Cafe Polonia
»Medford: Bistro 5
»Portland, ME: Emilitsa
»Newport, RI: Tallulah on Thames
»Pawtucket, RI: Rasoi

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