Potatoes yahni (Πατάτες γιαχνί )

Potatoes yahni

A traditional Greek potato stew

Potatoes yahni

 

Raise your hand if you love pototoes! You there, in the back, holding a fist-full of french fries, we see you!  And we love you!  And, we too love potatoes.  Whether they are roasted in the oven, bathed in all sorts of beautiful Greek flavours, or boiled and mashed and then transformed into the very distinctive Greek garlic spread called skordalia, we adore them.  Potatoes are so versatile, so available, so economical, that it’s no wonder that the rustic cuisine of Greece has taken this commonplace vegetable and made it the star of a stew which we know will find a happy place in your hearts and stomachs.

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Calamari and rice (Καλαμάρι με ρύζι)

Calamari with rice

A one skillet meal which is so easy and flavourful that you’ll find yourself making it over and over again.

Calamari and rice

 

Any meal that can come together in one pot, one pan or one baking tray is a winner in our books.  When that meal happens to be delicious, and also requires little to no culinary skill, you know it’s going to be on the menu pretty often.  This one skillet meal of calamari and rice also happens to be perfect for periods of Orthodox fasting, when dairy, eggs and meat are usually avoided, but seafood like calamari is perfectly appropriate.

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Marinated olives

Marinated olives

Olives warmed up with herbs and spices!

We have a difficult time understanding people who don’t care for olives; a challenge because one of us is married to one of those people.  It’s hard to wrap our head around why anyone would turn their nose on fruit (yes, olives are fruit!) that comes in so many wonderful varieties, colours and flavours.  We’ve come to accept that perhaps the tartness, bitterness and occasional spiciness of olives is an acquired taste, and growing up in a Greek household, it was a taste that we acquired quite young.

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Christmas koulourakia with yeast (Χριστουγεννιάτικα κουλουράκια με μαγιά)

Christmas koulourakia with yeast (Χριστουγεννιάτικα κουλουράκια με μαγιά)

Savoury Christmas koulourakia

Much of the beauty of Greek cuisine is that it varies from region to region.  In part this is due to agricultural possibilities (think mountainous landscapes versus islands surrounded by the sea), connections with other cultures, and local customs and traditions.  Every recipe tells a story, and offers a glimpse into the rich web of history, both cultural and culinary, that makes Greece and Greek food such an important and fascinating area of study.  Although many of these unique regional dishes are well known (think kalitsounia from Crete or lalagia from Messinia), others are so local that they are known only to isolated villages.  The recipe which we are sharing here is one such example.

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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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Koulourakia with orange (Νηστίσιμα κουλουράκια με πορτοκάλι)

Koulourakia with orange (Νηστίσιμα κουλουράκια με πορτοκάλι)

Koulourakia with orange (Νηστίσιμα κουλουράκια με πορτοκάλι)

Our parents make so many types of koulourakia (Greek for cookies that are great for dunking into coffee or milk) that it is almost hard to keep track of them all.  To help differentiate one koulouraki from the other, they often refer to a key ingredient.  So here, we present to you koulourakia with orange…because, you guessed it, they contain a fair bit of orange juice.  They also often refer to different koulourakia by the person who prefers them over all others.  So these, along with being koulourakia with orange, are also affectionately referred to as “Georgia’s favourite”.

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Mussels with red sauce (Μύδια με κόκκινη σάλτσα)

Mussels with red sauce (Μύδια με κόκκινη σάλτσα)

Mussels with red sauce (Μύδια με κόκκινη σάλτσα)

 

Some ingredients give the impression that they will be a lot more complicated and costly to work with, than they actually are.  A great example of this is mussels.  Because we tend to talk about food a lot, we’ve learned that many people have never cooked mussels, assuming that it would be difficult to create a meal with them.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  In fact, mussels are an incredible way to present a fancy meal with almost no effort.

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Orzo with shrimp (Κριθαράκι με γαρίδες)

Orzo with shrimp (Κριθαράκι με γαρίδες)

Orzo with shrimp (Κριθαράκι με γαρίδες)

 

There are some foods which were always considered somewhat of a treat when we were growing up.  Shrimp was one of those foods.  Maybe because it was often a little pricier than our usual fare, or maybe because our parents tried to reserve seafood dishes for periods of lent, when they would be appreciated even more.  Whatever the reason, when shrimp made its way to the table, it was a good thing.

The great thing about cooking with seafood like shrimp, is how easily a delicious meal can come together; shrimp literally cooks in minutes.  It’s also incredibly versatile and is delicious grilled, fried, steamed, boiled and baked.  There is no shortage of ways to prepare shrimp (did you see what we did there?) 🙂

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Youvetsi with chickpeas (Γιουβέτσι με ρεβύθια)

Youvetsi with chickpeas (Γιουβέτσι με ρεβύθια)

Youvetsi with chickpeas (Γιουβέτσι με ρεβύθια)

 

Our parents always managed to put filling and delicious food on the table, whether they were rushed, tired, or simply not in the mood to cook (rare, but it did sometimes happen).  Youvetsi (sometimes called Giouvesti) was the perfect solution to any of these situations.  A baked dish of orzo, tomato sauce and protein, this is a relatively quick, and incredibly easy way to feed a family.

When our parents needed something quicker than quick, and easier than easy, they turned to preparing youvetsi this way.  Unlike the more typical versions which include meat, like lamb or  chicken, this recipe is made with chickpeas.  By turning to legumes, this youvetsi is perfect for meatless Mondays, during lent, or when you simply want a vegetarian (actually, vegan) option.

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Lagana (Λαγάνα)

Lagana (Λαγάνα)

Lagana (Λαγάνα), a traditional bread eaten on Clean Monday.

 

This is probably one of our favourite times of year.  In Greece, carnival season is ending and Monday marks the beginning of lent for Greek Orthodox Easter (Pascha).  Although we live in Canada, and there are no such Carnivals, we do what we can to keep with some of the Greek traditions and customs.  Many people have abstained from eating meat this past week and will now continue to abstain from meat, eggs and dairy until Easter Sunday.  Whether you are fasting entirely, partially, or not at all, is of course a personal decision.  Throughout our lives, for various reasons, we have fasted in the ways which were most appropriate for us at the time.  One thing that has always remained constant however is that on Kathara Deftera (Clean Monday), we eat lagana.

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