Pumpkin or winter squash pita (Πίτα με γλυκοκολοκύθα)

Pumpkin or winter squash pita (Πίτα με γλυκοκολοκύθα)

A winter squash pita to rival any pumpkin pie

Fall in Canada brings so much wonder.  Leaves change into the most beautiful colours, the air is brisk and fresh,  and sweater season makes even the grumpiest of humans appear snuggle-worthy.  But sometimes we think that all these wonderful things get usurped by pumpkin spice; we actually think that pumpkin spice might take over the world…and we are intrigued.

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Chili lime side stripe shrimp lettuce wraps

Chili lime side stripe shrimp lettuce wraps

Super easy lettuce wrapped shrimp

Chili lime side stripe shrimp lettuce wraps

 

So this is different!  We were recently provided with a review copy of The Great Shellfish Cookbook: From Sea to Table More than 100 Recipes to Cook at Home by Matt Dean Pettit from Penguin Random House Canada, and boy, were we excited.  First of all, we love seafood and shellfish…all of it!  Second, the idea of reviewing a cookbook, telling all of you what we thought of it and testing some of the recipes, frankly made us feel a little special.  But then, the uneasiness crept in.  What if this cookbook was awful?  What if we hated it? What if the recipes were boring and bland?  How would we navigate the ocean waters between being ethical and honest in our review while at the same time being respectful to a chef and publishing company that we clearly did not want to upset.  What were two blogging sisters to do?

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Zucchini fritters (Κολοκυθοκεφτέδες)

Zucchini fritters (Κολοκυθοκεφτέδες)

Zucchini, herb and feta fritters!

Zucchini fritters (Κολοκυθοκεφτέδες)

 

Ever wonder what summer tastes like?  You might think it’s cool like ice cream, or bursting with citrus zing, but we’re pretty sure that if you could sample the essence of summer on your tongue it would taste like zucchini. Seriously!

Every summer, for as long as we can remember, when our parents plant their garden there is a special section devoted for zucchini and other squash.  In their current home, where they have been for several years, they actually have what we refer to as an annex to their garden.  The back fence bordering their tomatoes and peppers and spinach has been jimmied so that it opens up just wide enough for someone (our dad) to squeeze through.  On the other side, at a width of several feet, our parents plant their squash.  Here they grow pumpkins, butternut squash, zucchini and all sorts of other colourful and bizarre looking gourds, free and uninhibited; the only other things you will find here are some grape leaf vines and wild flowers.  Talk about a secret garden!

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Bacon wrapped dates stuffed with feta (Τυλιχτοί χουρμάδες σε μπέικον και φέτα)

Dates stuffed with feta

A bite-sized sweet party in your mouth… wrapped in bacon

Bacon wrapped dates stuffed with feta (Τυλιχτοί χουρμάδες σε μπέικον και φέτα)

 

Greeks love mezes, little bite-sized (usually) appetizers that you can serve before a meal, or in place of a meal.  It is not unusual to be served several platters of mezes, along with a lovely glass of ouzo or ouzo-infused cocktail, and be fully satisfied.  The mezes are usually plenty, and they are so delicious that you are never wanting for a complete and formal meal.  Common on the meze table are spanakopita, tyropita, meatballs (keftedes) and dips or spreads.  Less common would be something like these dates, stuffed with feta enhanced with orange zest and mint, wrapped in bacon.  These bite-size morsels of sweet, salt, savoury and awesomeness will definitely make you smile.

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Spanakopita (Σπανακόπιτα)

Spanakopita (Σπανακόπιτα)

The quintessential Greek pie: Spanakopita with homemade phyllo 

Spanakopita (Σπανακόπιτα)

Spanakopita; the King (or Queen) of Greek cuisine.  We doubt that there is a food more loved than this.  Regardless of culinary and cultural background, and whether or not you grew up in a Greek household, you have probably heard of spanakopita.  The lucky amongst us will have also tasted it, and the most fortunate know how to make it on their own, so that it can be enjoyed whenever the craving hits.   Spanakopita is the reason Greek parents can’t relate to other parents when they say “You know how kids are!  We have to puree and sneak vegetables into everything…Jack and Jill won’t touch anything green!  Kids, right?!”  Wrong.  We think Jack and Jill just need to be offered a piece of spanakopita.

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Olive oil dip

Olive oil dip with balsamic

In Partnership with GeoEvoo Inc.

Olive oil dip

 

We were never a bread and butter family.  If bread was going to be served with lunch or dinner (and let’s face it, it usually was), it was used to sop up all of the delicious sauces and juices which came with our great meals, like green beans with potatoes, stewed green peas and horiatiki salad.  No butter required.  And even if the meal was not bathed in rich delicious sauces, butter was unnecessary because our parents would either drizzle our pieces of bread with olive oil, or create an aromatic olive oil and vinegar combination that we could then dip our bread into.

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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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Kalitsounia (Kαλιτσούνια)

Kalitsounia (Kαλιτσούνια)

Kalitsounia (Kαλιτσούνια)

 

We’re not exactly sure when our parents starting making these delightful little cheese pies, but we are pretty sure we know their inspiration.  We are blessed to have close, long time friends who are originally from the island of Crete.  So throughout the years, we have frequently been privileged guests in Cretan homes, enjoying not only our friends’ wonderful company, but also their delicious food.

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Grilled octopus

Grilled octopus

Grilled octopus

 

Here it is….our first entry in Our Kouppes, the space we have carved into Mia Kouppa to share our own recipes.  As we mentioned when we introduced Our Kouppes, many of the recipes you find here will be inspired by the food that we grew up with, and this grilled octopus is definitely that!  We have vivid memories of summers in Greece, where we would see freshly caught octopus drying in the sun by the port, and sun-kissed fishermen eager to sell their bounty to locals and local restaurants.

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