All posts tagged: greekblog

Lamb Kleftiko

DISCLOSURE: I don’t condone stealing. There is just one instance, however, where I do pardon a certain group of thieves because their act of stealing eventually gave the world a glorious gift. The thieves I’m speaking of are the klephts, an indigenous population that descended from the Greeks who fled into the mountains to escape—and from which to fight—the Turkish occupiers of Ottoman Greece. The klephts snuck from the mountains to steal grazing lambs or goats, then retreated back to the mountains to cook their stolen goods. The meat was seasoned with oregano and thyme or even wild garlic, placed in an underground pit and covered with soil and branches on top to trap the aromas and the smoke while cooking. Doing so helped to avoid detection from their adversaries. This sneaky style of cooking later became known as kleftiko—the food of the “klephts” or thieves. Over time, the method moved from underground pits to outdoor wood-fired ovens. These days, we make LAMB KLEFTIKO indoors, baked in any conventional oven. The lamb is either assembled …

Monasteries and Churches of Greece

With 97% of the country comprised of Greek Orthodox members, it’s no wonder there’s an abundance of historic monasteries and churches with generations of monks, nuns, and priests who have preserved the Greek language, culture, and religion. Greek Orthodox monasteries stretch across the countryside in some of the most beautiful locations imaginable—some balanced atop steep rocks with others burrowed in lush, green valleys and olive groves. Many of these monasteries were built centuries ago by hermits and monks in an effort to escape religious persecution. During Greece’s most troubling times, monasteries offered safety and comfort to the people of Greece. In addition to the monasteries, visitors will find countless Orthodox churches, packed with holy icons and whose architecture reflect particular regions of Greece and the period in which they were built. Some of the oldest date back to the Byzantine era (330-1453 A.D.). The architecture and the earthly tones of the churches on the Ionian Islands like Corfu, Lefkada, and Zakynthos were heavily influenced by the Venetians during the 15th century. Santorini, Tinos, Milos, and …

Roka (Arugula Salad)

Roka (arugula) is one of the most underestimated leafy greens, despite packing lots of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. It’s numerous health benefits are well known. Arugula is native to the Mediterranean and is definitely a green that should be added to more plates worldwide. The Greeks eat plenty of arugula as a “Roka Salata” and is traditionally served as just roka, topped with thin slices of local cheese and dressing. To add more essence to the salad, it is common to add walnuts, pine nuts and sundried or fresh tomatoes to the mixing bowl. This is a common salad throughout Greece. Because the strong peppery taste of arugula can be a turn off to some, simply add romaine lettuce to the salad to temper the arugula. I make mine solely with arugula, and just add extra toppings like walnuts for extra crunch, and tomatoes for a juicy bite. The best thing about the Roka Salad is that it takes no time at all to put together, and still stands out on a dinner table. The …

Maroulosalata (romaine lettuce salad)

Say maroulosalata out loud ten times fast and you’re sure to chuckle to yourself into a wide smile as you stumble on the word begging to come out of your mouth. If you can’t get past the pronunciation, dig into the salad itself and let your taste buds do the talking. Maroulosalata is comprised of marouli (lettuce), green onions, and dill. Traditional maroulosalata calls for Romaine lettuce, but you are welcome to use any other curly lettuce. Using fresh dill adds zest to every bite and marries perfectly to the classic olive oil and vinegar dressing that’s drizzled throughout. It’s a light and easy to make salad that’s served year-round but is more common in the warmth of spring and summer months. Maroulosalata pairs well with halibut or any other fish seasoned with dill, or can be served as a main or side salad alongside other vegetable dishes. Save Print Maroulosalata (romaine lettuce salad) Recipe type: Salad/Meze   Ingredients 1 head of romaine lettuce, shredded or cut in ¼ inch ribbons 2 bunches of green onions, …

Psari Plaki (Baked Fish)

Seafood rules the tables of Greece. With so many islands and close mainland coastal waters, the Greeks have a bounty of choices to bake, fry, grill, or boil. It’s understandable, in a country of such passionate cooks, that everyone has a preference, and the different types of seafood often require different types of preparation. Sardines are best fried, octopus tastes great off the grill, and a boiled fish soup always hits the spot when cool winds blow in off the Aegean. Lucky for us, seafood reigns as all important in the Mediterranean diet all over the world. My personal favorite at home, when I have fresh cod or any other firm white fish: PSARI PLAKI. Baked fish never had it so good. Before taking a further bite out of this recipe, let’s break down the name. Psari simply means fish, while plaki refers to a dish baked in the oven with olive oil and vegetables. Onions, garlic, leeks, and celery are sliced and sautéed, then diced tomatoes are added to round out the flavors, creating …

Agia Lavra and Mega Spileo Monastery

“EIPHNH”—Peace. “OXI PIA POLEMOI”—No more war.  I pause, frozen, for what seems like eternity whenever I stare at these words cast in huge white letters on a quiet hillside in the Northern Peloponnese region of Greece. At the top of the hill, a large cross overlooks the city below, and a date reads 13-12-43. All serve as messages of peace and symbols of the martyrdoms that took place there.   On December 13, 1943, Kalavryta experienced one of the worst atrocities of World War II. On that day, Nazi soldiers locked women and children in the town’s school and set it on fire. Soldiers took over 500 males from Kalavryta and surrounding villages to that quiet hillside. German soldiers lay in wait in the surrounding brush. On command, the soldiers fired at the unarmed mass of men, killing all but 13.  Today, a stone monument stands tall in memoriam and lists the names and ages of the dead. The first time I visited Kalavryta with my family, both my brothers wept as they stared up at the monument, seeing …

Festive Blue & White Cookies

Every March 25th my friends and I celebrate Greek Independence Day with a festive get together. We eat a delicious Greek meal that includes all of the favorites from salads to dessert and everything in between. And, when we can find good salt cod, we make bakaliaros skordalia (fried cod and garlic sauce), which is traditionally eaten on March 25th in Greece. We all sport obnoxious amounts of blue and white clothing from head to toe to display our Greek pride. Recently we’ve even added a blue and white theme to our menu. An example are these blue and white cookies. The cookies are made with blue velvet cake mix, some butter and cream cheese for a gooey texture, and finished with white chocolate chips. They are so simple to make that you can task your kids to whip them up—and so they can be the ones stuck with the blue hands when rolling the dough together. Take a break from the traditional recipes and give these fun and festive cookies a try, they’re truly …

Greek Spaghetti

Twirling long strands of spaghetti around a fork is one of my guilty pleasures. Every time I eat a plate of spaghetti, no matter where or why, I get some sweet “guilt” satisfaction. It’s an added bonus when the spaghetti has been prepared with a guilt inducing creamy garlic butter sauce and covered with two of my favorite types of cheese, grated mizithra and crumbled feta. Freshly diced tomatoes—my super secret guilty pleasure—round out the flavor of this simple dish, and the twirling begins. It doesn’t take much to create your own GREEK SPAGHETTI, the only difficult part comes from trying to figure out the correct amount of spaghetti to boil. Do you boil eight ounces or maybe you count out 157 strands of spaghetti? Sometimes the best answer is to boil an entire package of your favorite pasta—fettuccine, linguine, angel hair, whatever—just boil it all. No matter your measuring method, there always seems to be too much as a result. But that’s what friends with appetites are for. Invite your buddies over and indulge …

Pastourma Rollups

The first time I prepared a dish for a large crowd, I had the jitters. The Taste of Greece, a fun, food fundraiser for our Greek Orthodox Church in Salt Lake City, Utah, annually draws nearly 500 attendees who are ready and willing to sample common Greek fare, all made by home cooks. My dad, an experimental cook who owns every Greek cookbook imaginable—twice over—always shows up with unusual dishes that people had never tried. When I was 16 and only knew how to pour the perfect amount of milk in my cereal and how to butter toast, my dad tasked me to make something simple but different—PASTOURMA ROLLUPS—that he’d found in one of his cookbooks. They’ve been a hit at Taste of Greece ever since, but my dad also loans out all of his cookbooks, so I’m not sure who to thank. Diane Kochilas? Aglaia Kremezi? Vefa Alexiadou? Susanna Hoffman? Cat Cora? Michael Psilakis? Thank you all, and every other wonderful Greek cookbook author, for opening my eyes, to this and all things Greek …

Greek Coffee

Long before all the drive through coffee stands and the Grande caramel macchiato, there was elliniko kafe (Greek coffee). Made by boiling coffee grounds in a copper or brass briki (coffee pot) until the perfect kaimaki (foam) forms, Greek coffee is then poured into a white demitasse (small cup). It’s simple as that. The next step is to sip slowly, until you reach the bottom of the cup where the coffee grounds have settled. Sit back, relax, and enjoy your Greek coffee for hours on end at the nearest kafeneio (coffee house) with friends or in the comfort of your own home. Greek coffee is best served with a glass of cold water, and some sweet Greek cookies, such as koulourakia to dunk with. What you need: Demitasse Water Greek Coffee Briki Sugar (optional) Directions: 1. To measure, fill your demitasse cup up with cold water and pour into the briki or small pot. 2. Add 1 heaping teaspoon of Greek coffee into the briki. Add the appropriate amount of sugar for the type of …