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.
Meat or poultry cooked in tomato sauce is a staple in most Greek kitchens, including our parents’. This type of meal is called kokkinisto, which means red or reddened and refers to the fact that the cooking liquid is tomato sauce. Whether you choose to use meat, as we did in our veal kokkinisto recipe, or poultry as we are doing here, you will find that this method of cooking results in something absolutely delicious, with minimal effort. How wonderful is that!?
For years, when we thought about grilled cheese we thought only about two pieces of white toast slathered with butter, with a slice of processed cheese in between them. This would get fried in a non-stick pan and served, usually with a cold glass of milk. A thin, crispy, but at the same time kind of soggy, sandwich…and we loved it. It was one of the first things we learned to make ourselves when we were young, and we felt that we were teaching our parents a thing or two…grilled cheese was not something they grew up on. Now that we are older, and more culinary (we have a blog after all!), we still occasionally enjoy this classic…but we’ve also learned that there is more than one way to grill a cheese sandwich.
A few months ago, while we were scrolling through Pinterest, we came across recipes for porcupine meatballs. Intrigued, and slightly horrified, we investigated and were pleased to discover that these are not made of porcupine meat. In fact, porcupine meatballs are just regular meatballs with rice added to the mix; because the rice kind of pokes out of the cooked meatballs, they appear prickly, like porcupines. Cute. We grew up with something kind of similar, although the Greek version doesn’t have such a silly name; in Greek households they are called yiouvarlakia.
As we mentioned when we first introduced Our Kouppes, many of the recipes we will feature here are heavily influenced by our parents and Greek cuisine…but not all of them. This particular bread recipe for example, although heavy with Mediterranean elements like Kalamata olives, feta, and oregano has very little to do with our parents. In fact, this bread is brought to you because of a man hero named Jim Lahey.
We are so excited to share this recipe! We think that many of you will have memories of this meatloaf being a popular highlight on Greek buffet tables. In recent years, this meal seems to have fallen out of favour, and we’re really not sure why. It is absolutely delicious and we feel, it deserves a revival. When we shared with our friends that we were going to be making this rolo (Greek for loaf) with our parents, the typical response was something like, “Oh yeah! I remember that!”. Even our parents were excited that we wanted to make this meal with them; it had been years since they had done so.
Let’s get one thing straight, right off the bat. We know we will never convince those of who object to eating cute animals that this is a recipe you should try. If this is you, no need to read further. And we get it. Rabbit is not the most popular of meats; in fact, most members of our family refuse to even try it. However, if you are interested, or curious, about learning how to create a delicious, and very traditional Greek meal using rabbit meat…you’ve come to the right place.
We were raised in a very traditional Greek home, with a large Greek extended family and many Greek friends. Our neighborhood and primary school were full of Greeks, and we happily lived and learned alongside a smorgasbord of other nationalities. As we grew up and ventured off to high school, college, and then university, as we got jobs and got involved in extra-curricular activities (that went beyond Greek folk dancing), our exposure to the people of the world grew and grew. How enriching! How wonderful!
It’s no real surprise then that we both grew up to marry Xeni. For those of you who are not Greek, and who do not understand what “Xeni” are…well, that’s you. Xeni, (the plural form of xenos (masculine) or xeni (feminine)) is essentially anyone who is not Greek. This is not meant to be an insult or a derogatory categorization; it’s just a fact. So, our Anglo-Canadian husbands are Xeni. So is our West Indian neighbour, our Japanese co-worker, and the Cameroonian cashier at our local grocery store. All Xeni. The Italian barber at the local salon is also a Xeno…but a little less so, because Italians and Greeks are the same-same…sort of.
Today was officially the end of the holidays for us. Kids back at school, parents all back to work, and the merriment of Christmas and New Year’s gone for another year. One of us has succeeded in taking down the Christmas tree and packing away the decorations, while the other is still wondering if the tree should stay up until Easter, decorated for every holiday between now and then, the way it did last year. Despite our home décor differences, both of us agree that it might be time to do away with any leftover sweets and treats. After all, it’s a new year, and for a few weeks at least, we should focus on joining countless others who vow that this is the year that we eat well, and exercise more. But then again, life is short, and dessert is good.
Ever wonder why, in most Greek families, names seem to be on repeat? At any given family function you are likely to find 4 Marias, 3 Costas and about 7 Georges. That’s because Greek parents have traditionally always named their children after their own parents. So, two siblings who each have daughters, may very well name their girls after their common mother, for example. Many Greek names are also names of Saints, making the Nameday (the day during which we commemorate the life of a given Saint) a much bigger deal amongst many Greeks than birthdays could ever be. Each of us is named after one of our grandmothers, and one of our Greek names (Vasiliki) is also associated with Saint Basil the Great, who is commemorated on January 1st, the day of his death.