Spinach and cheese pita pocket full of spinach, feta and mozzarella.
Ever crave spanakopita, but don’t have the time, energy or desire to make one? We feel like that sometimes! In those moments we have been known to call our parents to see if they happen to be rolling out phyllo dough in the middle of the afternoon to make one of their amazing spanakopitas…and if they are, would they mind if we came by to take it. Although we are often in luck (these two have limitless energy), sometimes they inform us that, no! No spanakopita – but we could drive by to pick up some pastitsio and galaktoboureko, which we happily do. Still, after eating our fill of other delicious things, we still find ourselves wanting spanakopita.
Sometimes we are so lazy! Like, stay in bed all day reading and eating bon-bons lazy. Or, too tired to cook so have cereal for dinner lazy. Or no one’s around to judge so I’m going to take the elevator one flight up lazy. It happens, and we don’t have the energy to pretend that it doesn’t.
Laziness however can also result in really lovely things, like alevropita. This is the cheese pie you want to make when you’re too lazy to make your own phyllo, when you’re too lazy to fold kalitsounia, and when you’re too lazy to spend much time in the kitchen.
The French have the baguette, Mexican cuisine has the tortilla, Indian aloo gobi gets sopped up with soft, pillowy naan bread, and if you’ve every treated your palate to Ethiopian food you’ll likely remember using the pancake-like bread called injera to scoop up every bite you took. Every culture, every cuisine, seems to have a variation of some cereal or grain based bread that is quintessentially their own. For Greeks, that is the pita.
The best recipe for the most tender and flavourful pork souvlaki.
Students of Greek literary classics and philosophy may remember that Homer, Aristotle and Aristophanes all refer to feasts of skewered meat in various texts and documents. Fascinating! Or, true scholars of ancient Greek things may read this and laugh, in which case it probably isn’t true, and Wikipedia lied to us. You really can’t believe everything you read on the internet!
Regardless of whether or not the characters in the Iliad fortified their bellies with souvlakia before battling in the Trojan war, this Greek staple is definitely worth fighting for. But, there actually is no struggle here; these pork souvlakia are incredibly easy and simple to prepare, and will likely satisfy every mouth you are feeding. The only fight may be deciding who gets the last one.
The classic Greek yogourt dip flavoured with garlic, cucumber and herbs.
When we were young, we didn’t have all of the gadgets and gizmos that kids today have to keep us amused. We made our own fun, often out of nothing. One of our favourite games was dubbed “Try to make the other person laugh”; one of us would be seated, and the rest of us would take turns, using a variety of tactics, trying to make that person laugh, without touching them. The person who could hold out the longest without laughing was declared, The Winner! We especially liked playing this game when our family was visiting from Ontario, as their visits usually prompted a larger get-together, with more aunts, uncles and cousins. With so many kids, this meant hours of silly fun. It also meant that there was, of course, plenty of food. Along with the pitas, keftedes, salads and grilled meats, there was always tzatziki. Aside from being delicious, this garlicky dip provided more amusement. Invariably, a few of us would sneak a generous helping before the meal was served. We would then get really close to our cousins and siblings, preferably backing them into a wall, and breathe into their faces. Oh, how we laughed and laughed, as they practically choked on the noxious garlic breath they were forced to inhale. Good times.
Fasting and fava describes Greek Orthodox Lent traditions and get the recipe for fava, a split yellow pea spread.
Today is Clean Monday (Καθαρά Δευτέρα), the first day of great lent in East Orthodoxy. The date, like the date of Easter Sunday, varies from year to year and is the Monday seven weeks prior to Easter Sunday. It is described as “clean” because today is the day we are meant to leave behind sins, sinful attitudes, and non-fasting foods. In actual fact, lent began yesterday evening with the service of Forgiveness Vespers and the Ceremony of Mutual Forgiveness. Forgiveness is a major part of lent, and the faithful are meant to embrace this period with clean consciousness (making confession an integral part of this week), clean hearts and even clean homes, as it is customary to clean the house thoroughly during this week.
The decision to fast, and the degree to which one undertakes the fast is, in our opinion, a deeply personal one. It hinges upon many factors, including one’s health, life circumstances, and previous experience with fasting. People may choose to limit only meat, to cut out all animal products, to allow olive oil or not, or to fast only the week before Easter Sunday. We would never presume to tell you the right way to fast, but would instead suggest that you speak to your priest if you have any questions or concerns about your particular situation and the path you would like to follow. Regardless of your decision, one of the best pieces of advice that our parents gave us growing up in relation to fasting was the following: When you fast, you don’t look at anyone else’s plate (they said this in Greek of course). By this they meant that you should never look beyond your own self when fasting, and you should never judge another based upon what they put into their mouths. They also always maintained that fasting should go hand in hand with prayer, confession and goodness towards your fellow man (and of course, woman).