Baklava (Μπακλαβάς)

Greek Baklava

Greek Baklava

Before our Mia Kouppa launch about 7 months ago, we established a few goals and rules to keep us focused, and on track.  Our goals included increasing our reach (that’s blog speak for people seeing our stuff) every week, learning all about Tweeting and Pinning, and being invited to appear on Ellen.  Some goals are clearly more attainable than others.  As for the rules, we decided that we would post twice a week (Mondays and Thursdays), not talk about our blog incessantly to friends, family and strangers, and never use the descriptors “THE BEST ever”, “THE MOST delicious”, “THE WORLD’S greatest”, in reference to any recipes we shared.  How could we make such bold assertions? We are not that worldly…but baklava is!

Baklava is one of the most popular and delicious Greek desserts, and it is also an international favourite; there are variations of this sweet treat in many middle Eastern and European countries.  Lucky for us (and you), baklava may be the easiest dessert you will ever make.  Truly, there is actually no way you can mess this up.  Even if you tried, we don’t think you could ruin it.  It is impervious to destruction.  It is less baking and more assembling. If you were really committed, we suppose you could burn it, but then you might burn down your whole kitchen, and we don’t think it is worth it, just to prove us wrong.

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Greek pasta salad

Greek pasta salad

Greek pasta salad with orzo and pesto

The world is big, and when our mom emigrated from Greece in search of a better life, she could have ended up in several places; in particular, the United States and Australia already had a significant number of Greek immigrants that she could have joined. Circumstance however, had her dock in Nova Scotia.  From there she travelled to Montreal, where she settled, worked, and raised enough money to travel back to Greece to marry our dad, and to then return back to Canada with him.  In those early years, our parents sponsored several of their siblings and they too made their way across the ocean.  It was in Montreal that most of their children were born and their families raised.

We love our city.  It has a rich history (some of it controversial) and in fact, Montreal is currently in the midst of celebrating it’s 375th anniversary.  It is an energetic place, with a European influence evident in the architecture, art, food, and people.  Although it is officially a bilingual city, with French and English being the two official languages of our province of Quebec, that description is a little simplistic.  In fact, Montreal is a great multicultural and multilingual metropolis, with waves of new immigrants from all corners of the world arriving and enriching our city.  There are so many obvious reasons to love Montreal (you should come visit!) and yet, there is one great reason which is often overlooked, or cursed.  The weather.  That’s right…the weather!  It can be horrible, but we wouldn’t trade it for the world.

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Cabbage rolls with egg-lemon sauce (Λαχανοντολμάδες με αυγολέμονο)

Greek Cabbage Rolls with Egg Lemon Sauce

Greek Cabbage rolls with Egg-Lemon Sauce

This recipe is an example of us taking one for the team.  You, dear readers, are our team. That’s right…you.  Have we told you lately how happy we are to have you on our team? How happy, and thankful, we are that you have discovered Mia Kouppa?! And this recipe, it’s our thanks to you. We know that many people love Greek-style cabbage rolls, so how could we possibly deny you this recipe, despite the fact that we hate don’t like them?  Keeping this recipe from you would not make us team players. We are better than that (usually).

When we asked our parents to show us how to, one day, make cabbage rolls with egg-lemon sauce, they both got a little cabbage-twinkle in their eyes.  It had been years, closer to never, since we had requested this recipe.  There was just something ugh about cooked cabbage.  So, as soon as we verbalized this request, the necessary ingredients were being pulled out of fridge and pantry, and aprons were being tied around waists.  That day, our parents happened to have, not one, but two, heads of cabbage in the refrigerator.  Doesn’t everyone? What began as a simple, thought-for-the-future, quickly became supper, and this post.  It was all very serendipitous, and very, very emotional.  With our meal complete, we settled down to taste these cabbage rolls (how else to write about them?). Suddenly, they became our long lost loves.  Where had these rolls been all these years? They are truly, shockingly, delicious.  No…more than delicious, they are kind of, phenomenal.  The combination of the cabbage and the egg-lemon sauce gives a gift of tart sweetness which is hard to describe, but very easy to enjoy.  Thanks team!

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Horta (Χόρτα)

Horta, Wild Dandelion greens

There are some things which are simply, quintessentially, Greek.  Your mother insisting that you not leave the house with wet hair, to avoid pneumonia, is one.  Having several members of your family with the same first name,  sometimes paired with the same last name, is another.  Calling anyone who is even remotely related to you, your cousin, is yet another.  And horta-picking…well, that is one, perfect, Greek thing.

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Baked squash fritters (Κολοκυθοκεφτέδες)

Baked Squash Fritters

Baked Squash Fritters

It was quite challenging figuring out what to call this recipe in English.  The literal translation from Greek is squash meatballs, but that sounds weird.  We thought about squash fritters, but since there is no battering or frying involved, that didn’t seem right. We toyed with squash pancakes, squash pitas, squash and stuff, and finally settled on baked squash fritters because, frankly, we got tired of thinking.

Whatever you call them (you can always try ko-lo-kee-tho-keftedes, which is the phonetic English spelling of κολοκυθοκεφτέδες 🙂 ), you will definitely love them.  These little morsels are a great way to get vegetables into your diet and your belly.  Because they are baked and not fried, you can pop them into your mouth freely and recklessly, knowing that they are nothing but good for you.

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Host like a Greek

Greek meze

Several months ago we came across a video clip of an Italian-American comedian named Sebastien Maniscalco.  In this particular bit, entitled “Doorbell”, Chicago-born Maniscalco compares the reaction of families today versus those of twenty years ago, when the doorbell rings unexpectedly.  His portrayal of households faced with unanticipated company (which you should definitely watch by clicking here) is quite hilarious, and also, a little bit sad.  As with most things comedic, an element of truth runs through it. Why do people, as Maniscalco points out, cringe at the thought of company? Why does the idea of entertaining, especially at the last minute, stress us so?  We’re here to tell you that it doesn’t have to, and that with a change of perspective and some staples in the freezer, fridge and pantry, you can jump for joy when company comes calling.

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Veal roast with potatoes (Μοσχαράκι με πατάτες στο φούρνο)

Veal roast with potatoes

Veal roast with potatoes

This is the type of meal that is really handy to have in your repertoire of great meals.  Fancy, and plentiful enough to feed a crowd, a good roast will also make for great leftovers if you are cooking for only a few special people.  An additional benefit to this slow-cooked, no-fuss recipe, is that you can pop it into the oven, and while it roasts you can move on to other things, like making a stove top dessert or painting your fingernails.  Our parents, of course, will usually use this “down time” to roll a few keftedes or fold a few spanakopites.  They are kitchen warriors!

You may assume that the veal is the star of this meal, and although it is delicious, make no mistake, these potatoes deserve equal billing.  They are cooked slowly, marinating in the juices from the veal roast, and this brings out their inherent sweetness. Cooked this way, they transform from humble spuds to elegant and tasty taters.  People will talk about them for days, weeks, maybe even years!  Which would actually be a bit strange…but understandable.

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