When we first posted our parents’ rizogalo recipe we explained that this was a food which was so deeply connected to our childhoods that we couldn’t help but find comfort in a bowl of warm, creamy, simply delicious rice pudding. And that is still so true; rizogalo, the way our parents make it (and the way we now make it), is comfort in a bowl.
This recipe draws its inspiration from the classic French sandwich called croque madame, itself a variation of the croque monsieur. Their name is based on the French verb croquer, which means “to bite” or “to crunch”. And happy eaters have been biting and crunching for a long time; the croque monsieur was first served in Paris in 1910 and it’s earliest mention in literature is seemingly in volume two of Proust’s In Search of Lost Time in 1918.
An elegant cake that is perfect for breakfast, snacking or dessert
We love to bake with olive oil. In part this is because growing up, our parents very rarely used butter in their cooking or baked goods. This was not because butter is not delicious, but because of our mom’s dietary restrictions and the underlying philosophy that despite the fact that butter may makes things better, olive oil makes them best. The other reason that we love baking with olive oil is that sometimes we find ourselves out of butter, but we can’t remember a day when we looked around our kitchens and discovered we were all out of olive oil. Lucky, for sure.
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!
For years, when we thought about grilled cheese we thought only about two pieces of white toast slathered with butter, with a slice of processed cheese in between them. This would get fried in a non-stick pan and served, usually with a cold glass of milk. A thin, crispy, but at the same time kind of soggy, sandwich…and we loved it. It was one of the first things we learned to make ourselves when we were young, and we felt that we were teaching our parents a thing or two…grilled cheese was not something they grew up on. Now that we are older, and more culinary (we have a blog after all!), we still occasionally enjoy this classic…but we’ve also learned that there is more than one way to grill a cheese sandwich.
There are a few things we can always count on for Easter Monday, the day after Orthodox Pascha. The first is the realization that another year has gone by, and we are overcome with gratitude to have been able to celebrate our important holiday with our family and friends. The second is being reminded that an extensive fast and abstinence from meat, dairy and eggs, which ends with a day spent eating pretty much only meat, dairy and eggs, is rough. Delicious, but rough. And finally, we’ll note that regardless of how much we ate, there are leftovers for days!
If you have been following our blog and reading our stories, then you may know that we Greek Canadian sisters are both married to Xeni (if you are Greek, you know exactly what this means…and if you are not Greek, well, Xeni is you). One of us is married to a man who is of Irish and Scottish descent, and so it seemed fitting to share a recipe from his original neck of the woods, especially with St. Patrick’s Day just around the corner.
Irish soda bread is classified as a quick bread because it does not include yeast, hence there is no proofing time where the dough rises, and then rises again. Here, baking soda and buttermilk combine to do all the work. The result is a bread which goes from flour in a bowl to warm bread in your mouth in about 45 minutes. The Irish know that sometimes, there are more important things to do than spend hours in the kitchen.
As we mentioned when we first introduced Our Kouppes, many of the recipes we will feature here are heavily influenced by our parents and Greek cuisine…but not all of them. This particular bread recipe for example, although heavy with Mediterranean elements like Kalamata olives, feta, and oregano has very little to do with our parents. In fact, this bread is brought to you because of a man hero named Jim Lahey.
We were raised in a very traditional Greek home, with a large Greek extended family and many Greek friends. Our neighborhood and primary school were full of Greeks, and we happily lived and learned alongside a smorgasbord of other nationalities. As we grew up and ventured off to high school, college, and then university, as we got jobs and got involved in extra-curricular activities (that went beyond Greek folk dancing), our exposure to the people of the world grew and grew. How enriching! How wonderful!
It’s no real surprise then that we both grew up to marry Xeni. For those of you who are not Greek, and who do not understand what “Xeni” are…well, that’s you. Xeni, (the plural form of xenos (masculine) or xeni (feminine)) is essentially anyone who is not Greek. This is not meant to be an insult or a derogatory categorization; it’s just a fact. So, our Anglo-Canadian husbands are Xeni. So is our West Indian neighbour, our Japanese co-worker, and the Cameroonian cashier at our local grocery store. All Xeni. The Italian barber at the local salon is also a Xeno…but a little less so, because Italians and Greeks are the same-same…sort of.
This is a silly little recipe. We wonder if it is even a recipe at all! Regardless of whether it is or not, we couldn’t resist sharing this post, primarily because many of you seem to enjoy the memories that Mia Kouppa brings up. So, we wonder, how many of you were served warm milk with a touch of coffee growing up?