Black-eyed pea soup with kale (Σούπα με μαυρομάτικα φασόλια και κατσαρό λάχανο)

Black-eyed pea soup with kale (Σούπα με μαυρομάτικα φασόλια και κατσαρό λάχανο)

This nutritional powerhouse of a soup will have you feeling great, and full!

Black-eyed pea soup with kale (Σούπα με μαυρομάτικα φασόλια και κατσαρό λάχανο)

 

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.

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Cod with eggplant and potatoes (Μπακαλιάρος με μελιτζάνες και πατάτες)

Cod with eggplant and potatoes (Μπακαλιάρος με μελιτζάνες και πατάτες)

Greek style fish and chips…with eggplant

There is something to be said for the thrill that comes with anticipation.  Like looking under the Christmas tree and seeing all of the gifts waiting to be opened.  Or carrying home the latest best-selling novel, imagining crawling into bed and cracking the spine.  Or marking “X”‘s on the calendar as you count down the days to your holiday.  Or opening up your refrigerator and seeing your fish soaking in cold water.  What joy!

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Grilled zucchini and bell pepper salad

Grilled zucchini and bell pepper salad

A grilled vegetable salad with a fresh herb dressing 

Grilled zucchini and bell pepper salad

 

Once again, zucchini feature prominently in this recipe.  We just can’t get enough of this summer squash staple, whether we are turning them into chips, fritters or mixing them with other summer vegetables to make a quick meal.   In this recipe, we use both green zucchini and yellow squash (which is often called yellow zucchini).  Although both of these vegetables have very similar flavours, the difference in their colour makes this salad more interesting visually.  Add to that the colourful bell peppers and the fresh green herbs and before you know it you will have a bowl of coloured goodness to serve.

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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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Chickpea salad (Σαλάτα με ρεβίθια)

Chickpea salad (Σαλάτα με ρεβίθια)

Chickpea salad (Σαλάτα με ρεβίθια)

 

If you have been following Mia Kouppa for a while, or even for a little bit of time (Welcome!), you may have realized a few things.  Feta should always be Greek (as should olive oil), fresh bread usually goes beautifully with just about any meal, and if you have a well stocked Greek pantry, you can make thousands of recipes (this is only a slight exaggeration) .  You may have also noticed that we are firm believers that beans should never come from a can.  But never is a really big word.

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Biftekia with french fries (Μπιφτέκια με τηγανιτές πατάτες)

Biftekia with french fries (Μπιφτέκια με τηγανιτές πατάτες)

Biftekia with french fries (Μπιφτέκια με τηγανιτές πατάτες)

 

Our neighbourhood growing up was filled with a lot of kids our age.  We lived in an apartment complex, which was one of many on several blocks, and everyone seemed to know everyone else, at least a little bit.  Our free time was spent meeting friends on the street, hanging out in the large back yards and driveways of these apartment buildings, playing catch, dodge ball, hide-and-seek, or just hanging around riding our bikes to the corner store to buy popsicles and sip-sacs.  On days where there was no school, we would be outdoors all day, coming in only for lunch and bathroom breaks.  Reluctant to fully stop all friend-related activities, we would often have friends over to share a quick lunch before heading back out.  Knowing this, our parents would usually have some quick and kid-friendly meals at the ready.  Included in this were lots of hamburgers and meatballs (called keftedes), and these were well loved, and understood, even by our non-Greek friends.  They would ask for ketchup (they were usually given tzatziki instead) and they ate, happily.

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Grated carrot salad (Σαλάτα με καρότα)

Grated carrot salad (Σαλάτα με καρότα)

Grated carrot salad (Σαλάτα με καρότα)

 

One of us loves orange!  One of the brightest and most vibrant of colours, it just screams happiness, don’t you think?  That’s part of the reason this carrot salad is so loved.  How could you be sad, or stressed, or frustrated when you’re eating a salad that is joyful, refreshing and so, so easy to put together?

Carrots have long been a staple in our family meals.  Our parents always tried to find ways to incorporate this versatile root veggie, super rich in beta-carotene and other vitamins and minerals, into our diet.  They add carrots to their fakes and fasolatha, they add a few to the roasting pan when they make roasted lemon potatoes and to the chicken stock when they make avgolemono soup.  When we were young, as we would head out to play, our parents would often pass us raw, peeled carrots that seemed to appear out of nowhere, to have as a snack.  These were never chopped up into rounds or carrot sticks and placed neatly into a plastic bag; they didn’t have time for that.  These were whole carrots, meant to be chomped on as Bugs Bunny would.

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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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Fennel salad (Σαλάτα με μάραθο)

Fennel salad (Σαλάτα με μάραθο)

Fennel salad (Σαλάτα με μάραθο)

 

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.

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