Wednesday, April 30, 2014

When is a recipe Jewish, Middle Eastern, vegan -- or even Greek?

Last month I attended a Passover cooking class at Temple Israel of Greater Miami, with recipes for vegans and those on gluten-free diets...My job was to prepare the "Mock Chicken Liver," which appealed to me since it would be healthier than regular Chopped Liver (which I love!). The recipe was one that Hollywood (FL) vegan chef Jimmy Gavarian had revised for a previous class...The foundation was 1/2 lb. of brown lentils gently cooked for about 30 minutes. Chop an onion and saute it in olive oil. Blend those ingredients along with 1 cup of chopped walnuts in your food processor until the mixture reaches  the consistency of Chopped Liver.  Do you know what I mean?

(You should also salt to taste -- but if you are not vegan, cooking the lentils in canned chicken broth would give you plenty of salt as well as add to the taste. Same thing if you decided on the shortcut of using canned lentils. Canned tomato products also have have plenty of sodium. So if you do use those things, proceed accordingly...)

Second time I made it (last night for some Canadians here in Port Hope, ONT), I used a can of fava beans and added some cumin to them plus garlic powder -- and again it was a winner with rave reviews. (NOTE: Third time around, I sauteed a minced clove of garlic with the onion and spritzed about a 1/2 t. of cumin on the lentils. More rave reviews.)

Not so Jewish this time, maybe more Middle Eastern and still vegan. But I made it, so it must now be Greek -- OPA!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Does anyone make real maghiritsa any more?

Tonight my brother Bill and I will make our annual pilgrimage to the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church in North Miami, a place that hearkens me back to small-town Greece. After the liturgy, those who have stayed till the end will be rewarded with a welcoming Easter feast of the traditional maghiritsa soup, tsoureki, red eggs, feta, olives and some wine as we repeat the "Hristos Anesti" -- and I am looking forward to it. 

It will be very tasty maghiritsa, I can vouch for that -- but not maghiritsa made with lamb intestines (think kokoretsi!)  It's not so easy to procure lamb intestines these days, so most people use liver and heart along with some lamb meat.  The rest is the same: 4-5 bunches of green onions, 2 bunches of dill, a little rice and the makings for avgholemono soup.  Tasty, just not the real thing.

Growing up in Stockton, I never ate the maghiritsa that my Yiayia Sarris prepared, primarily because it smelled to high heaven while she was cooking it -- not unlike her patsa (tripe), which I did not eat or cook until recently after eating menudo in Mexico.  That's yet another story...

But when living in Greece (1968-78), I learned to never ever turn down food offered in anyone's home, especially in Greek villages. The first time I ate maghiritsa was in Ouranoupolis, Halkidhikis -- in a Byzantine tower inhabited by Joyce Loch, a legendary figure in those parts. The amazing Kyria Fani did all her cooking. Meals were served in a monk-like refectory, often accompanied by a bunch of gray cats that hovered nearby or even on the bench next to Joyce at the head of the table. One night, I came face-to-face with a dish of maghiritsa. It was (thankfully) fabulous, and I was hooked.

My friend Vouli taught me the ropes, literally and figuratively. The intestines must be washed separately in lukewarm water using salt and lemon; then they are turned inside out on a pencil and washed again before blanching as you have done the other offals.  Make sure to get rid of that pencil!

The rest is easy: cut the intestines and offals into small pieces, saute the onions in butter, add the innards and some dill, simmer for a couple of hours in the water you boiled the meat in, add more dill and a little rice, finish off with the avgholemeno -- and you have a winner!

Kali Anastasi! But does anyone make real maghiritsa any more?

Sunday, April 13, 2014

What's in your Lenten cookbook?

It's Palm Sunday, and a good time to delve deeper into your Lenten cookbook - like "Orthodox Lenten Recipes" (42 pages) published by the St. Basil's Parent's Club in 1973 in Stockton, California, and edited by Gayle Maduros/ Presvytera Efstathiou. It includes a bunch of wonderful traditional recipes and spin-offs, so I probably won't be making the "Chinese Tossed Salad" or "Special K Cookies" any time soon.

Looking through the copy my Mom had, I can see which recipes she favored by the food stains and notations mostly in the "Vegetable Main Dishes" section. Indeed, I remember many a pan of baked vegetables through the years -- okra, tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants and, if we were lucky, those long green beans that Mr. Terezakis grew in his garden over on Virginia Lane across from the Country Club golf course.  The "dava" that she used was one of those large, deep oval baking pans with lids; I hope my brother George got it and kept it.  These days you can only find those pans in hardware stores or thrift shops, but that's another story...

I love soups, and one of my all-time favorites Lenten dishes is spanokorizo (spinach and rice). So today I went with "Lentil Soup w/ Chard and Lemon" on page one, substituting spinach as suggested in the recipe. Kale would be another good choice. Lots of older recipes with lentils call for cooking them a long time; but they do cook much more quickly, in about 30 minutes or so. Add the greens, sauteed onion/garlic, salt (if you must),and lemon juice with a little flour to thicken. It takes about an hour.

I made the soup in an aluminum Guardian Service pot that belonged to my Yiayia Sarris -- and it made my day! 

NOTE: The recipe called for 3/4 c. lemon juice, way too much. Next time I will start with 1/4 c. and see where that takes me -- or no lemon juice, just wait to add vinegar to the dish as we do with plain lentil soup. And, of course, more garlic!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

This blog is under development...stay tuned!

Meanwhile, I can tell you that this (in the picture at top) is my "dream meal" -- fried smelts, horta (dandelion greens), and bread sauteed in a little oil... eaten across the street from the Myrtoan Sea in my grandfather's village of Kiparissi, Lakonias on 11-10-12. Double OPA!