Chickpea fritters with a lemon tahini sauce (Ρεβυθοκεφτέδες με σάλτσα ταχίνι)

Chickpea fritters with a lemon tahini sauce

Vegan fritters made of chickpeas and fresh herbs, served with a tangy lemon tahini dipping sauce

Hungry people everywhere seem to be flocking, more than ever, to menu items which feature plant-based goodness and stuff-that-isn’t-meat-but-is-made-to-taste-and-look-like-meat.  Because of that, we think that this vegan recipe for chickpea fritters served with a lemon tahini sauce is going to make many of these hungry people, very, very happy.  Why?  Because these chickpea fritters are naturally beyond delicious.

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Spanakopita no. 2 (Σπανακόπιτα no. 2)

Spanakopita no. 2

Home made phyllo dough filled with spinach, herbs and feta

Spanakopita no. 2

 

Summer is almost over! How can that be?! As always, the months when school is out, the days are at their longest, and the sun smiles down warmly, pass all too quickly.  We try to hold on to the season by enjoying every moment left and by looking back at our June picnics, July getaways and August pool parties and barbecues, recognizing that although quick, our summer was blessedly full.

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Salted sardines and anchovies (Σαρδέλες)

Salted sardines and anchovies

Salt preserved sardines and anchovies prepared for meze

Salted sardines and anchovies

 

We are grateful to our parents for so many things.  They supported us, financially, emotionally and nutritionally, throughout all of our schooling.  They showered us with love, attention and encouragement every day, and they balanced their praise with enough well-deserved disapproval to keep us humble and in check.  This of course does not mean that we are perfect, but as parents, they kind of are.

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Cretan dakos (Κρητικός ντάκος)

Cretan dakos

A traditional Cretan salad of tomatoes, feta and herbs on top of a barley rusk

Cretan dakos

 

Oh Crete, how we love you!  We’ve both had the great pleasure of visiting this largest and southernmost island of Greece,  spending weeks exploring the cities, beaches, gorges and of course, the tavernas and restaurants.  Cretan cuisine, like all Greek cooking, is based on fresh, local ingredients and the regional specialties often showcase food items you can only find there.  Fortunately however, much of what is loved and devoured in Crete can be replicated off the island, and this dakos salad is a perfect example of that.

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Grilled vegetables (Λαχανικά στη σχάρα)

Grilled vegetables

A medley of marinated and grilled vegetables 

Eat your vegetables!  Who hasn’t heard this, or uttered it, over and over again.  Sometimes getting your kids, your spouse, yourself to eat vegetables seems like an uphill battle.  Let’s face it, not everyone goes crazy for luscious greens like vlita or okra, or is satisfied with a meal whose main star is cauliflower. In fact, today we crave vegetables but there was a time when we would plan covert operations to stealthily dispose of the grossness that our parents put before us; our spanakorizo disposal tactics were legendary.  Still, even in the throes of our vegetable-hating youths, we never rejected vegetables that were marinated and grilled, and which usually happened to be served along with grilled souvlaki or steak.

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Sauteed green peppers (Πράσινες πιπεριές τηγανιτές)

Sauteed green peppers

A simple side full of green bell peppers, red onion and a few herbs

If you’re a gardener, you might be like our family who feels that there are some basic vegetables without which a garden could never be complete.  Oh sure, we like to experiment and occasionally try to grow watermelons, asparagus, and brussel sprouts, with varying degrees of success, but some things are non-negotiable.  Bell peppers are included in that category of must-grows.

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Herb marinated feta

Herb marinated feta

Greek feta marinating in a herb, lemon and chili pepper infused olive oil

Feta is the king of cheeses, in our opinion.  It is perhaps the best known Greek cheese and is so loved that it finds its way into so many recipes.  Whether it is used to fill kalitsounia, or covered in sesame seeds and fried, or added to an amazing Greek salad, feta makes everything betta! 🙂 Growing up, a breakfast, lunch and dinner were never complete if there wasn’t an oval shaped bowl holding pieces of feta available. It didn’t really matter what was being served; the general consensus was that feta goes with everything.

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Fried fish (Ψαράκια τηγανητά)

Fried fish

Tiny fried fish that you can eat from head to tail

Fried fish

 

Summers in Greece mean hours spent in outdoor tavernas, with a clear view of the ocean and the warm sun embracing you.  The heat, the pace of vacation life, the hours before or right after the afternoon siesta all contribute to a feeling that time is endless, and life is best lived unhurried.  But all that relaxation sure works up an appetite, so that taverna table is usually most often filled with mezes and frosty glasses of ouzo or frappé.  Given the scene, some of the best mezes are those that came from the sea you are looking onto.  Octopus, shrimp, calamari are always welcome, as are these tiny fried fish.

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Shrimp saganaki (Γαρίδες σαγανάκι)

Shrimp saganaki

Shrimp cooked in a rich and spicy tomato sauce with ouzo and feta

Shrimp saganaki

 

In Greek cooking there are a whole slew of dishes which are categorized as saganaki.  One of the most popular is cheese saganaki, that meze of fried cheese set aflame with the help of a little ouzo or Metaxa, which causes restaurant patrons to exclaim Opa! in delighted unison.  The term saganaki actually refers to the small, two-handled frying pan in which the food is cooked called a sagani, a derivative of the Turkish word sahan, which means copper dish.  Remember long ago when we told you that Mia Kouppa would also make you smarter?  You’re welcome.

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Vegan spanakopita (Νηστίσιμη σπανακόπιτα)

Vegan spanakopita

Homemade phyllo and spinach filling, perfect for Lent, and anytime

Vegan spanakopita

 

Growing up we lived close to our grade school, and so lunches were eaten at home after a short walk down one street and one lane.  Our mother, who worked at different periods either at home, or in the evenings, was available to meet us at the school and walk the short distance home with us. Once there we would very occasionally be treated to our parents’ newly discovered convenience food; the TV dinner.  We loved those surprise lunches, from the compartmentalized courses to the odd looking sauces and vegetables which were less than vibrant.  We especially loved returning to school and, on those days only, asking our friends “what did you have for lunch?”, knowing that they would probably ask us the same.  Then, we could nonchalantly, but with a quiet glee, say, “Oh, you know, a TV dinner”.  Our non-Greek friends would nod their heads with approval and understanding. Our Greek friends would look bewildered.

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