Homemade phyllo and spinach filling, perfect for Lent, and anytime
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.
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.
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.
This nutritional powerhouse of a soup will have you feeling great, and full!
If you are a regular reader of Mia Kouppa, you may already be aware that we have a love affair with black-eyed peas. We are actually fond of all things bean and legume, but the darling black-eyed pea holds a special place in our hearts…because it is so darn cute. Take a good look at these beans, with their perfect small shape and perfectly situated black “eye” and we’re pretty sure you will agree, they are adorable! Still, if you’re more mature than us and not that interested in appearances, we think we can convince you to love black-eyed peas anyways, because they are delicious, versatile and so, so good for you.
When is the last time you had boiled spinach for supper? Or a plate piled high with steamed collard greens? Not as a side to anything, but as the actual meal. Like, that was the only thing on your plate. Well, if you’re Greek, then the answer might be, earlier this afternoon. And if you’re not Greek, then this type of pauper, bland meal might seem a little strange, and sad. But trust us…it’s not!
This summer we were so fortunate to have our cousin visit us from Australia. His mother and our mother are first cousins, but if you ask our mom, they were actually as close as sisters. Raised in the same house, they grew up sleeping in the same room (actually, the same bed), eating at the same table, and living similar experiences, from schooling to household chores, to family joys and struggles. When our mom left Greece to come to Canada she fully expected that her sister-cousins (there were 2) would soon follow her, as would her own siblings. Unfortunately, Canadian immigration laws at the time prevented her cousins from coming to Canada as they were too young; they instead immigrated to Australia. Although the cousins speak often, they have not seen each other since they were young women.
Have you ever heard of halva? If you’re Greek, you probably have, as this is a staple dessert during periods of lent when many abstain from eggs and dairy. This delightfully vegan dessert is a breeze to put together and when it is done in chocolate as it is here, you’ll find yourself desperate to come up with an excuses to make it over and over again. We think that I just want to…is reason enough.
Not only is halva delicious, it is also so versatile. We have previously posted a halva recipe which was flavoured with orange and raisins. Super delicious! The lovely thing about halva is that once you get the basic recipe down, you will find it pretty easy to experiment with other flavours and combinations of ingredients. So here, we did just that. We decided to mix in some cocoa powder, dairy free chocolate pieces and finely chopped walnuts to create a chocolate lovers halva.
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”.
Make no mistake, dates feature very prominently in this cake. If you are not sure that you like dates, or if you think that you would not like dates, you should probably give this cake a try. Truly. The only reason you should pass on it is if you are 100%, definitely and absolutely, a date hater. And even then, unless you are deathly allergic to dates (or any of the other ingredients in this cake), you should give it a go. Dates are an incredible fruit, and frankly, we think that this is an incredible cake.
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.