Cucumber salad (Αγγουροσαλάτα)

Cucumber salad (Αγγουροσαλάτα)

Cucumber salad (Αγγουροσαλάτα)

 

Cucumbers! Who doesn’t love a fruit (yup, a fruit!) that can be used as a vegetable, which is a good source of Vitamins A, C and folic acid, and that can reduce eye puffiness.  That’s right!  Did you know that you can place cucumber slices on your eyes, lay back for about 5 minutes, and then  look 10 years younger.  It’s true! Now, that last little bit could be credited to the fact that during your do-it-yourself spa treatment, cucumber juice seeps into your eyes, blurring your vision temporarily…but whatever.

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Revani with coconut (Ρεβανί (ή Ραβανί) με ινδοκάρυδο)

Revani with coconut (Ρεβανί (ή Ραβανί) με ινδοκάρυδο)

Revani with coconut (Ρεβανί (ή Ραβανί) με ινδοκάρυδο)

You may have noticed that Greeks love syrup.  We’ll take a perfectly delicious walnut cake, a delightful phyllo and custard dessert or a simply yummy pear shaped cookie and make them better with syrup.  Sticky, and now even more perfectly delicious, syrup soaked cakes are a particular favourite around here (and by here we mean our family, not the internet…although, we’re working on it!).

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Chickpea salad (Σαλάτα με ρεβίθια)

Chickpea salad (Σαλάτα με ρεβίθια)

Chickpea salad (Σαλάτα με ρεβίθια)

 

If you have been following Mia Kouppa for a while, or even for a little bit of time (Welcome!), you may have realized a few things.  Feta should always be Greek (as should olive oil), fresh bread usually goes beautifully with just about any meal, and if you have a well stocked Greek pantry, you can make thousands of recipes (this is only a slight exaggeration) .  You may have also noticed that we are firm believers that beans should never come from a can.  But never is a really big word.

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Biftekia with french fries (Μπιφτέκια με τηγανιτές πατάτες)

Biftekia with french fries (Μπιφτέκια με τηγανιτές πατάτες)

Biftekia with french fries (Μπιφτέκια με τηγανιτές πατάτες)

 

Our neighbourhood growing up was filled with a lot of kids our age.  We lived in an apartment complex, which was one of many on several blocks, and everyone seemed to know everyone else, at least a little bit.  Our free time was spent meeting friends on the street, hanging out in the large back yards and driveways of these apartment buildings, playing catch, dodge ball, hide-and-seek, or just hanging around riding our bikes to the corner store to buy popsicles and sip-sacs.  On days where there was no school, we would be outdoors all day, coming in only for lunch and bathroom breaks.  Reluctant to fully stop all friend-related activities, we would often have friends over to share a quick lunch before heading back out.  Knowing this, our parents would usually have some quick and kid-friendly meals at the ready.  Included in this were lots of hamburgers and meatballs (called keftedes), and these were well loved, and understood, even by our non-Greek friends.  They would ask for ketchup (they were usually given tzatziki instead) and they ate, happily.

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Grated carrot salad (Σαλάτα με καρότα)

Grated carrot salad (Σαλάτα με καρότα)

Grated carrot salad (Σαλάτα με καρότα)

 

One of us loves orange!  One of the brightest and most vibrant of colours, it just screams happiness, don’t you think?  That’s part of the reason this carrot salad is so loved.  How could you be sad, or stressed, or frustrated when you’re eating a salad that is joyful, refreshing and so, so easy to put together?

Carrots have long been a staple in our family meals.  Our parents always tried to find ways to incorporate this versatile root veggie, super rich in beta-carotene and other vitamins and minerals, into our diet.  They add carrots to their fakes and fasolatha, they add a few to the roasting pan when they make roasted lemon potatoes and to the chicken stock when they make avgolemono soup.  When we were young, as we would head out to play, our parents would often pass us raw, peeled carrots that seemed to appear out of nowhere, to have as a snack.  These were never chopped up into rounds or carrot sticks and placed neatly into a plastic bag; they didn’t have time for that.  These were whole carrots, meant to be chomped on as Bugs Bunny would.

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Lamb tagine with couscous

Lamb tagine with couscous

Lamb tagine with couscous

 

We love to travel.  Although we spent many of our childhood summers in Greece, as we got older we each began exploring other parts of the world as well.  A few days ago, one of us celebrated her wedding anniversary, and with that came memories of an incredible honeymoon; months spent in Morocco, Gibraltar and Spain.  Time was devoted to exploring cities, beaches, museums and the unique charm of these incredible places. Oh and yes, we ate.  We ate well.

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Soft boiled egg (Αυγό μελάτο)

Soft boiled egg (Αυγό μελάτο)

Our daughters were really fortunate because when they were little, and we each had to return to work after our long (but not long enough) maternity leaves, they were cared for by our parents during the day.  The love of grandparents is so special, and we are forever grateful that our girls had the opportunity to be coddled and cuddled by them, and chased around the house, and back yard, and park by them, yielding spoons and bowls of food.  That’s love!

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Kouloures (Κουλούρες)

Kouloures (Κουλούρες)

Kouloures (Κουλούρες)

 

Every once in a while our parents would take us to a local Greek bakery to help select a dessert to bring to a dinner party or gathering.  Usually they would make and bring along their own galaktoboureko, baklava or melomakarona, but occasionally our parents would be too busy (because they were also bringing along some homemade spanakopita or keftedes) to do so.  We would walk into the bakery with them and be overwhelmed with the sights and smells of all the delicious Greek desserts, breads and snacks.  Our parents would typically ask us to choose a variety of small, individual serving size cakes (glyka or γλυκά), often 8 – 12 in a box.  This was so exciting…shopping for sweets!  We were sure to select vanilla cakes, kok, cream-filled pastries, chocolate mousses and anything else that made our box of cakes a sight to behold.  The only thing better than selecting the pastries was receiving these boxes of glyka when we had company over.  Well before dessert was served, all the kids would sneak into the kitchen, snip the ribbon which tied the box closed, lift the lid with great anticipation, excited to see what joy lay within the box, and then quickly call dibs on the particular piece of dessert that we wanted.

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Diples (Δίπλες)

Diples (Δίπλες)

Diples (Δίπλες)

 

Summer is coming, and with it, wedding season.  We love everything about weddings; the blissful couple, the beautiful dress, the personal touches which permeate the entire event.  There is so much to appreciate!  What we love most however are the traditions. Whether they are cultural or religious or simply familial, these traditions situate the nuptials within something larger than the day itself.  How lovely!

Within our family, and Greek culture, we have our own set of traditions.  Some of these, of course, revolve around food.  In the Messinia region of the Peloponnese, which is where our parents and grandparents (and great-grand parents) are from, one of these sweet traditions is diples. Offering diples at weddings represents a wish that as two individuals become one couple and one family, their joys and blessings double. 

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Feta and fig crostini

Feta and fig crostini

Feta and fig crostini

We have a lovely relationship with figs, and so many warm fig memories.  One of our father’s sisters (who has passed away) lived in a beautiful spot in Greece called Chrani.  This was our favourite place to visit and spend our summers.  Our aunt was joyful, exuberant, generous and full of life.  Her home was simple but perfect, and connected to a small convenience store where she sold cold drinks and snacks to travellers getting off the bus which stopped at the corner of her property.  For those who think that all of Greece’s glory is found on the islands, we can tell you that the mainland is equally stunning.  In fact, over the years we saw our aunt’s town change from a relatively secluded oasis to a tourist hub, with hotels popping up all around her.

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