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Imam Bayildi (Eggplants Stuffed with Tomatoes and Onions)

As the story goes, Imam Bayildi got its name from when an imam (a Muslim priest) fainted immediately upon eating this dish because it was so tasty. Wherever the name came from, it’s rich and impressive in taste. Imam Bayildi originates in Asia Minor and makes for a beautiful presentation and meal with eggplants stuffed with a fantastic onion and tomato mixture. Falling into the ladera (olive oil based) category, Imam Bayildi is cooked with lots of olive oil, and drizzled in more before serving. Get your favorite bread ready for dipping and enjoy.

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Imam Bayildi (Eggplants Stuffed with Tomatoes and Onions)
Author: 
 
Ingredients
  • 2 eggplants
  • 1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 5 cloves of garlic,
  • 1 (15-ounce) can of diced tomatoes
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 teaspoon chili flakes (optional)
  • 1 bunch of Italian parsley, chopped
  • 8 ounces feta cheese (optional)
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350F.
  2. Wash and dry the eggplants. Slice them in half lengthwise, keeping the stems intact.
  3. Place the eggplant in a ceramic dish or baking sheet. Drizzle eggplant with half of the olive oil and sprinkle some salt. Bake for 10-15 minutes to allow the eggplant to get tender. (Two alternative methods noted below.*)
  4. Meanwhile, cook your stuffing. In a large skillet, add half of the olive oil. Add onions and sauté over low-medium heat for 5 minutes until they are soft and translucent. Add the garlic, season with salt and pepper. Sauté briefly, then add the diced tomatoes and chili flakes.
  5. Allow to simmer for 5-10 minutes, stir in the parsley, and then remove from heat.
  6. Once the eggplant is cooked slightly and the flesh is tender, remove from the oven. Carefully remove the most of the eggplant pulp (about 2 tablespoons—but enough to keep the eggplants firm to be stuffed). Chop the pulp and mix it to the onion-tomato mixture.
  7. Spoon the mixture equally into the eggplant boats, sprinkle with feta cheese if desired, and drizzle with olive oil.
  8. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until the eggplant is tender. Serve with a final touch of drizzled olive oil and enjoy.
Notes
*Alternative method 1: To get a more charred taste, you can wrap each eggplant in aluminum foil. Then, place eggplants over a gas, charcoal, or propane flame, turning frequently with tongs until soft.
Alternative method 2: Fry each eggplant on all sides until golden brown. With any method, the eggplants don’t need to cooked thoroughly because they will be baked later.

 

Koulourakia with Cadbury Eggs

A few years ago as I was doing my pre Greek Easter grocery shopping, I walked down the candy aisle and noticed how much Easter candy had gone on sale. This isn’t anything new, as Western and Orthodox Easter can fall anywhere from a week to four weeks after Eastern churches, making it the best time to buy candy.

Koulourakia (Greek Easter/butter cookies) were on my to do list that week and I wanted to create a fun twist, and Cadbury eggs caught my eye and figured mixing in the colorful candy into standard koulourakia dough would be fascinating. Little did I know how much of a hit these little treats would become. Family loved them, friends wanted more, and when I shared the results on my Instagram page, many people felt inspired to do the same.

You can use my recipe below, or use your own favorite koulourakia recipe, and simply mix in some finely crushed Cadbury eggs. Then, after forming your koulourakia, place some whole or halved Cadbury eggs on top for decoration and bake. Capitalize on those candy sales and have fun with your koulourakia.

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Koulourakia with Cadbury Eggs
Author: 
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 5 dozen cookies
 
Ingredients
  • 1 ½ cups unsalted butter
  • 10 oz mini Cadbury eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs, left at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • ½ cup heavy whipping cream
  • 5 to 5 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
Instructions
  1. Prior to baking, leave butter out at room temperature to soften. Important note: DO NOT microwave butter to soften the butter.
  2. Finely crush half of the Cadbury eggs, reserve the rest and set aside.
  3. In a mixer, cream the butter until it softens. Add sugar and beat together until light and fluffy.
  4. Add eggs and vanilla. Mix well and add the heavy whipping cream.
  5. Sift dry ingredients (flour, salt, baking powder) and add slowly to mixing bowl, continually mixing. Make sure the ingredients are combined well and dough is soft. Mix in the crushed Cadbury eggs.
  6. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
  7. When ready, place the dough on a clean surface for shaping. Take a little piece of dough (about the size of a walnut) and roll into a thin rope-like cord (about 6-7” long and ⅓”wide). Fold the rope in half and twist to form a braided cookie. Repeat this process with the remaining dough, ensuring that the koulourakia are the same size. You can also roll these into other shapes like circles or serpents.
  8. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place koulourakia on the sheet, leaving space in between each as they will slightly expand.
  9. Place whole or halved Cadbury eggs on top of koulourakia for decoration.
  10. Bake at 350 degrees for 17-20 minutes, or until golden brown.
  11. Let the koulourakia cool and serve, or store in an airtight container for up to three weeks.

 

 

Kritharaki (Orzo in Tomato Sauce)

I love a good one pot meal—these types of meals require little clean up. Enter Kritharaki, often referred to as manestra or orzo. Kritharaki has the aromatic smell of sautéed onions and garlic, a decadent tomato sauce spiced with oregano and cinnamon, and finishes with the addition of stirred in orzo that is cooked low and slow in the sauce. Though it requires minimal effort, I advise you to watch over the pot here and there, as the orzo can quickly thicken and stick to the bottom of the pot. This recipe will feed four to six people—I also would advise you to make a double or even a triple batch, because trust me, you will want more!

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Kritharaki (Orzo in Tomato Sauce)
Author: 
Serves: 4-6
 
Ingredients
  • 1⁄4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 (28-ounce) cans tomato sauce
  • 1⁄4 cup ketchup (optional)*
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 3 tablespoons dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3 to 4 cups of water
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 2 cups orzo (In Greek, kritharaki or manestra)
Instructions
  1. In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium heat and sauté the onions until translucent. Season generously with salt, pepper and oregano. Add in the garlic and continue to sauté for 5 more minutes.
  2. Add tomato sauce, ketchup (if using it), and vegetable broth to the pot. After pouring the can of tomato sauce, fill it up with water and pour that into the pot, too. No drop of sauce goes to waste! Season with cinnamon and a bit more oregano.
  3. Turn down the heat to low medium and stir in the orzo. Cover the pan with the lid (leave the lid off slightly) and allow to cook for about 20-25 minutes. Make sure to stir occasionally throughout, stirring from the bottom of the pan. Add water or vegetable broth if needed to cover the orzo.
  4. Check for flavor—add more salt, pepper, cinnamon or oregano if needed. Remember, this is all to taste.
  5. When orzo is soft, remove the lid and remove the pot from heat and allow it to stand for 10 minutes before serving.
Notes
*Ketchup can be added to the tomato sauce to sweeten it. You can use a pinch of sugar instead, or omit this step.

Note: IF there are any leftovers and when you need to re-heat, you may need to add more liquid such as water or vegetable broth.

 

Meatless “Meat” Sauce

To make a vegetarian version of the beloved kima (Greek meat sauce), simply swap ground meat for mushrooms and chickpeas. The vegetables make a hearty texture, creating a meatless “meat” sauce. My brother, who thinks literally, argues this dish’s name doesn’t make sense. However, it does sound better than “mushroom sauce”. Regardless, the sauce works well for vegans, vegetarians, and has even won the hearts of meat eaters as well.

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Meatless "Meat" Sauce
Author: 
Recipe type: Lenten/Main Dish
 
Ingredients
  • 16 ounces mushrooms (cremini or white button)
  • 12 ounces preferred pasta
  • 1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¼ cup red wine
  • 1 (32-ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3 tablespoons dry oregano,
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
Instructions
  1. In a food processor, pulse the mushrooms into fine uniform pieces. You may have to pulse in batches.
  2. In a saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat and add the mushrooms. Season well with salt, pepper, cinnamon and oregano, and cook until the mushrooms have slightly browned, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add onions and garlic and cook until onions have softened. Make sure to stir continuously. Add the wine and allow it to simmer for 2-3 minutes before adding the next ingredients.
  4. Add tomato sauce and diced tomatoes to the pot.
  5. Cover the pot with a lid (leave the lid off slightly). Lower the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes, being sure to stir occasionally (from the bottom).
  6. While the sauce cooks, prepare your preferred pasta according to package directions.
  7. Check the sauce and add more salt and pepper, cinnamon and oregano if needed. Since mushrooms don’t carry much flavor on their own, be sure to season well.
  8. Meanwhile, pulse the chickpeas in your food processor until you have fine pieces. Give them a rinse to remove the starches.
  9. Once the sauce has thickened and you've adjusted spices to your taste, stir in the chickpeas and allow to simmer together for 5 minutes.
  10. Remove from heat and serve atop pasta. Sprinkle on preferred grated cheese if desired.

 

Lahanorizo (Cabbage and Rice)

Get a large amount of vegetables in just one dish with Lahanorizo (la-ha-NOH-ree-zoh), a healthy meal made in just one pot.  Lahanorizo, meaning cabbage and rice, perfectly melds together with leeks, garlics, and spices. A drizzle of lemon juice at the end of the cooking process finishes Lahanorizo with a nice pop. Fill up on one of the healthiest dishes in Greek cuisine.

This recipe will make about 6-8 bowls worth, so you can either half the recipe or keep for leftovers. One of my favorite ways to repurpose this dish after a day or two is to rewarm on a skillet, crack a couple eggs and make cabbage fried rice.

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Lahanorizo
Author: 
Recipe type: Vegan/Lenten/Main Meal
Serves: 6-8 bowls
 
Ingredients
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 3 leeks
  • 3 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1 small head of white cabbage, finely shredded
  • 1 cup long grain rice (uncooked)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • ½ teaspoon chili flakes
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 cups water, or more if needed
  • 8 ounces tomato sauce
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 lemon, juiced
Instructions
  1. Cut and remove the stem and core of the cabbage. Clean and slice the cabbage in half and slice each half to create quarters. Thinly slice into small strips. Set aside.
  2. Use just the white and a small portion of green parts only of the leeks. Carefully clean the leeks by peeling the layers apart under a stream of water, and cut them into thin rounds. Set aside.
  3. Now, add half the olive oil to a large pot over medium heat. Sauté the onions and leeks until tender and translucent, about 7 minutes. Add the garlic and season with salt, pepper, and chili flakes.
  4. Add the cabbage and the remaining olive oil to the pot. Cook uncovered for about 10 minutes, or until cabbage has reduced to about half. Season with salt and pepper and occasionally stir throughout.
  5. Add uncooked rice and mix well with the cabbage mixture. Allow to cook for 5 minutes.
  6. Dissolve tomato paste in ¼ cup warm water and add to the pot, along with the tomato sauce. Stir around and add the vegetable broth and water.
  7. Cover the pot with a lid (leave the lid off slightly) and cook for about 30-35 minutes. Be sure to constantly check on the pot and stir occasionally (stir from bottom).
  8. Add more salt and pepper if desired, or what you prefer. I add more chili flakes here because I like the extra kick. Be sure to constantly check on the pot and stir occasionally. Add more water if needed.
  9. Once the cabbage is soft, rice is cooked, and the liquid absorbed, remove pan from heat. Allow to rest, uncovered for 5-10 minutes before serving.
  10. Stir in lemon juice and enjoy.

 

Arakas Latheros (Pea and Potato Stew)

Think you need to cut carbs to lead a sound diet? Think again. Vegetables are a great source of healthy carbs, and the combinations are endless. Arakas latheros (pea stew) is a Mediterranean staple with peas prepared in rich tomato sauce, herbs, carrots and potatoes. Arakas latheros is healthy, flavorful and simple as it is delicious.

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Pea and Potato Stew
Author: 
Recipe type: Lenten/Vegetarian
Serves: 4-6
 
Ingredients
  • 16 ounces peas (frozen or fresh)*
  • 1⁄3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
  • 6 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 large carrot, sliced (about 1 cup)
  • 3 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into bite sized chunks
  • 1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 1⁄4 cup white wine (optional)
  • ¾ cup vegetable broth
  • ½ cup fresh dill, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons oregano
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
Instructions
  1. In a large pot, heat olive oil over low heat and add onions and carrots. Sauté until onions are translucent. Add in the garlic and continue to sauté for 5 more minutes.
  2. Add potatoes to the pot, season generously with oregano, salt and pepper, and cook until vegetables are lightly browned.
  3. Add the wine and allow the alcohol to evaporate, about 2 minutes.
  4. Then, add diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, and vegetable broth and bring to a boil.
  5. Once you’ve reached a boil, turn down the heat to low to medium and cover the pot with a lid. Cook for about 40 minutes, or until the potatoes are fork tender. Be sure to stir occasionally and check for flavor. Add water or more vegetable broth if necessary for more liquid. I prefer more sauce, so I add more liquid here to cover the vegetables. If you prefer a thicker stew, remove the lid halfway through the cooking process to hasten thickening.
  6. Gently stir in the peas and dill to the pot. Again, season to taste with salt and pepper.
  7. Simmer until the peas have warmed through.
  8. Garnish with dill and serve warm with bread.
Notes
*Frozen peas work well with this recipe, as most peas are frozen right after harvest. If you’re using fresh peas, keep in mind you’ll need to cook them longer.

 

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Greek Olive Tapenade

Chunky texture with robust flavor, mixed Greek olive spread is the perfect dip to keep on hand. The only con about this dish is that I never make enough of it. Spread on sandwiches or serve with your favorite cracker type, vegetable, or bread.

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Greek Olive Tapenade
Author: 
Recipe type: Dip
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
 
Ingredients
  • 2 cups (16 ounces) pitted Kalamata olives
  • ¼ cup (2 ounces) pitted green olives*
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 6 basil leaves, lightly chopped
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
Instructions
  1. Drain the olives and finely chop into consistent small pieces.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine the olives, garlics, basil, and oregano. Mix well.**
  3. Stir in olive oil and red wine vinegar and serve.
Notes
**For an extra bite and color, use pimento stuffed olives.
**You can also pulse all your ingredients in a food processor, but I have found chopping by hand works best and creates a better texture.

 

Vegan Paximadia

Nistisima Paximadia (Vegan Biscotti) is a great way to satisfy your sweet tooth during Orthodox Lent. Made by substituting bananas in lieu of dairy products, this treat is arguably better than the real thing.

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Vegan Paximadia
Author: 
Recipe type: Vegan/Dessert
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4 loaves
 
Ingredients
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • ¾ cup orange juice*
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 small overripe banana
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 5-5 ½ cups sifted flour
  • 1 cup dark chocolate chips or almonds, or a combo of the two (if preferred)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease two baking sheets and set aside.
  2. Peel the banana and mash well into a large mixing bowl.
  3. Add vegetable oil, orange juice, sugar, and vanilla to the bowl and beat well with a whisk or an electric hand mixer. Beat well until smooth.
  4. Sift dry ingredients (flour, baking soda, baking powder) and add slowly fold into mixing bowl with a rubber spatula. Make sure the ingredients are combined until a soft, but sticky dough forms. Incorporate the dark chocolate chips if using.
  5. Divide the dough into 5 parts and place on baking sheets. Shape the dough into long loaves, that are about 2 ½ inches wide and 1 inch thick. Smooth the tops and the sides of the dough with your hands or a wet bowl scraper.
  6. Score the loaves with a serrated knife (I like this so it is easier to cut through later). Cut lengthwise into ½ inch diagonal slices.
  7. Bake for 22-25 minutes and remove from the oven.
  8. Let the loaves cool for 5-10 minutes, and cut through the precut slices. Lay the cookies cut side down and bake for another 10-15 minutes, turning the cookies over at the halfway mark. Note, the cookies will get crispier the longer they bake—so this is all preference! The cookies will harden even more as they cool as well.
  9. Once ready, take out of the oven and cool. Enjoy!
Notes
*I prefer fresh squeezed oranges or orange from concentrate (don’t dilute before using for more flavor)

 

Vegetable Soup

This vegetable soup uses a little this and a little of that. My papou (grandfather) Pete Saltas would make it using whatever vegetables he found in the kitchen. Some call this the “kitchen-sink soup” because everything and anything goes in (except the kitchen sink).

To make this soup, start by giving the base vegetables a quick sauté, then just keep adding veggies to create layers of flavors. Don’t put everything in the pot at once and try to let each vegetable or vegetable combos cook alone for awhile before adding the next one. And as you should always do with soups or stews, the trick is to simmer your meal low and slow so flavors blend together. A Greek cook might call this process pantremeni, which means “to be married.” Start with tougher vegetables such as carrots, peppers, and cabbage, and then add those that take less time to cook such as mushrooms, tomatoes, and zucchini. For the broth, use a combination of vegetable stock, tomato sauce, olive oil and water. Depending on your own tastes, you could also add some red wine, or red wine vinegar, even tomato juice.

The point is, flavor is subjective–you can always start with this basic blend, then on future pots, add or subtract to your own preference. Just make sure your vegetables are always covered with liquid. Season with salt, pepper and plenty of oregano. Cook until the vegetables are tender, and you’re satisfied with the taste. And remember, soup always tastes better the next day.

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Ingredients:
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 yellow onion, diced
½ cup carrots, diced
4 cloves of garlic, sliced
1 cup mini sweet peppers, chopped
½ cup cauliflower florets
½ cup broccoli florets
1 small cabbage, or ½ large head, finely shredded
1 zucchini, cubed
½ cup mushrooms, sliced
15 oz can diced tomatoes
15 oz can tomato sauce
2 (32 ounce) vegetable broth, more if needed
4 to 6 cups of water, more if needed
3 bay leaves
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons dried oregano
A pinch of crushed red chili flakes, or to taste
Red wine vinegar, for serving
Chopped parsley, for garnish

Directions:
1. Start by prepping your vegetables, having them cleaned, chopped and ready to add to the pot. For the cabbage, cut and remove the stem and core of the cabbage. Clean and slice the cabbage in half and slice each half to create quarters. Thinly slice into small strips.
2. Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onions and carrots, and sprinkle with pepper and oregano to taste. Cook until vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for another 5 minutes.
3. Add the cabbage and vegetable broth to the pot. Let it cook alone for 30 minutes or, the longer the better, I think. I do this because I think cabbage gives a special flavor to soups and I want it to dominate. Next add broccoli and cauliflower and let those cook into the soup. Pour in as much fluid as needed to cover the vegetables. You’ll keep adding more vegetable broth and water along the way as needed. Cook this round of vegetables for approximately 20-30 minutes, to build flavor.
4. Add the remainder of your “softer” vegetables: zucchini, mushrooms, diced tomatoes and tomato sauce. Add bay leaves and chili flakes, and season well with salt, pepper, and oregano. Add vegetable and water to cover the vegetables.
5. Continue to slow simmer for 1 hour (or as long as you can), or until the vegetables have softened and you’ve reached your desired taste and soup thickness level.
6. Stir in the red wine vinegar at the end to taste. Top with chopped Italian parsley.

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Add extra flavor or liquid:
This vegetable soup has a mild flavor to fit most palates. Here are a few ideas of additions you can add:

-For a spicy kick add V8 juice (I prefer spicy V8), a hot sauce such as tabasco, or simply use more chili flakes.
-Tomato sauce will keep your soup neutral.
-To sweeten things up, a couple squirts of Ketchup works nicely.
-Other vegetable ideas include eggplant, peas, corn, potatoes, celery—whatever you like or have lying around. Just judge what you think should go in at any given time. For example, add the celery to sauté at the very start, and add eggplant the same time as you would zucchini. And so on. Try it and have some fun!

Sautéed Mushrooms and Onions

When you’re short on time and don’t want to sacrifice flavor or nutrition, quickly whip up sautéed mushrooms and onions. With the versatility of mushrooms, you can serve this dish in almost any way you can imagine–eaten plain, on toast, atop steaks, in pasta–sautéed mushrooms and onions is a winner every time.

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Ingredients:
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 pound mushrooms
½ yellow onion, thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon Oregano
1 sprig fresh thyme
½ cup vegetable oil or white wine
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon parsley, chopped

Directions:
1. Thoroughly wash and drain the mushrooms.
2. Heat a skillet to medium high heat and add the olive oil. Once warm, add mushrooms and thyme. Season with oregano, salt, and pepper. Cook in pan for 3-5 minutes.
3. Add onions and garlic and allow to cook together for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
4. Add the vegetable oil, give the pan a stir, and cover the pan with a lid. Allow to cook on low to medium heat for 8-10 minutes, or until mushrooms have cooked.
5. Towards the end of the cooking process, stir in chopped parsley. Serve warm.

Serves 2

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