Black-eyed peas and spinach (Φασόλια μαυρομάτικα με σπανάκι)

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We know, we know, we have probably already told you that some other dish we have previously written about is our absolute favourite…but here we go again!  Black-eyed peas and spinach is our true absolute favourite food (until the next favourite comes along that is).

We believe that black-eyed peas (also called cowpeas) are the Queen of Legumes, and apparently we are not alone.  They are awesome enough to have a music band named after them, to be the conduit with which to poison an abusive husband named Earl in the Dixie Chicks hit, “Goodbye Earl” (we do not condone murder by the way) and to have a franchise restaurant in Texas and Tennessee named after them. The restaurant, of course, serves black-eyed peas.  We don’t think any other legume has received as much popular attention.  There must be something to these little gems.

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Spanakorizo (Σπανακόρυζο)

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If we were to assign a relationship status to each of our parents’ recipes, the one for spanakorizo would definitely read “it’s complicated”.  You see, as children, we hated this dish almost as much as we love it now.  And we didn’t just, not like it…no.  The mention of spanakorizo for supper, or the smell of it cooking for lunch, elicited a physical response which included gagging and waves of nausea.  The upside is that our visceral dislike for spanakorizo did support sibling connectedness, as we all worked together to rid ourselves of the vile meal without actually having to consume much of it.  Many a times, a diversion was created, just enough of a distraction to allow us to wrap some of the spanakorizo in a paper towel and toss it in the trash.  Our poor parents.  We don’t think they ever caught on.

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Vegan pastichio (Νηστίσιμο παστίτσιο)

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Welcome to More Kouppes, and to our first guest (meaning, not our parents’) Greek recipe! When we decided to share favourite meals from families which were not our own, we knew that we would focus on recipes we had either heard people raving about (Oh man, my mom’s spanakopita is like, The Best!), or food that we had been lucky enough to eat, and love.  Immediately we knew that this vegan pastichio would top the list.  A few times a year, during periods of lent, this dairy, egg and meat-free pastichio unexpectedly appears and replaces the brown bagged lunch of peanut butter or hummus. What a delicious surprise!  The sad sandwich gets tossed, and the day is immediately better.  The woman behind this delicious, and unexpected real meal, is Κυρία Αργυρώ (Mrs. Argyro), and her lenten pastichio is so, so, SO good!

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Manestra (Μανέστρα)

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Sometimes in life, you have to take risks.  Think outside the box.  Blaze a new path.  It can be scary and uncomfortable, but the rewards are usually worth it.  That’s what we have done here.  Manestra, a simple, tomato-based pasta soup, is usually made with orzo, but we decided to use pasta shaped as little stars (cue gasps).  We were brave.  We were ground breakers.  We were unintimidated.  We were out of orzo.

No matter what small shaped pasta you use, the end result is sure to be delicious. Manestra’s subtle flavour makes it a favourite amongst picky eaters, and when it is served plain (that is, not topped with grated mizithra) it is a perfect vegan and lenten option – particularly when you are all beaned out.

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Halva (Χαλβάς)

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Have you ever made a bowl of Cream of Wheat cereal and not been able to eat it right away?  Maybe you had to tend to a fussy baby, a pesky telemarketer or a parcel delivery (hurray for on-line shopping).  No matter the interruption, when you finally settled in to add milk to your porridge, you were faced with a solid mass of wheat semolina.  The fact that, as semolina sits it firms up, is what halva banks on.

The halva recipe which we are sharing here is grain-based and not the same thing as the nut butter or tahini based crumbly dessert with which it is often confused (no kidding, since they both go by the same name!).  This halva is semolina based and has a soft and somewhat gelatinous texture.  It is a great dessert to pull together when you have unexpected company or a sudden onset of sweet tooth-itis.  Because halva is not baked, it can be made quite quickly, and is ready to eat as soon as it cools and retains it’s shape.   An added bonus is that halva does not contain eggs or any dairy products, making it a wonderful treat for anyone following a vegan diet or for those abstaining from eggs and dairy during lent.

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Taramosalata (Ταραµοσαλάτα)

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Don’t you just love pink food?  Us too! Like strawberry yogourt, raspberry smoothies and cotton candy, taramosalata is beautifully pink.  Its colour is not only beautiful, but handy, because when taramosalata has difficulty rolling off the tongue, it’s lovely hue is mentioned, and suddenly, everyone knows what you are referring to. That pink Greek dip is universally understood to be the traditional carp roe spread which is a staple in many Greek restaurants and homes.  It is caviar for the masses.

The key ingredient for taramosalata is carp roe (yes, fish eggs), which is called tarama.  It can be found in Mediterranean or Middle Eastern stores, or on-line. Tarama is not usually eaten in its pure form, but is instead mixed with other ingredients to create a spread which is delicious slathered over a thick slice of bread, some crackers, or even used as a dip for vegetables.

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Gigantes plaki (Φασόλια γίγαντες)

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What was that?  You want something satisfying, luxurious, super easy and vegan?  Oh, good.  We’ve got just the thing for you.  Gigantes (or gigantes plaki) is a dish that we think you will come back to again and again. In this recipe, beans are prepared into a stew-like casserole, giving you a meal which is at once elegant, yet simple.

Maybe because gigantes are not the most common of beans, people often refer to them as giant lima beans.  Despite the fact that they look similar, gigantes are creamier, meatier and hold their shape better than lima beans when cooked; they are not the same thing.  When they aren’t mislabeled as lima beans, gigantes are sometimes colloquially referred to as elephant beans.  In actual fact, they are white runner beans (which we think sounds much more appetizing than elephant beans…no offence to elephants).  Even more officially, and officially Latin, they are classified as Phaseolus coccineus . We think these distinctions are important, particularly because gigantes are so special in Greek cooking.  They are so special, in fact, that certain regions of Greece have varieties of gigantes which have been accredited  as Protected Geographical Indication products. Take that, lima bean.

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