Patates me Avga (Potato & Eggs)

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When I was very little, I refused to eat eggs in any form, even if the eggs were nestled among crispy golden french fries. Silly, I know. Always ahead of her time, Yiayia realized that she just needed to ‘rebrand’ Patates me Avga in order for me to give it a try. She renamed it σκοτάδι, which means ‘darkness’, not because it describes the food in any way, but because it defined my state of awareness while eating this dish. Yiayia was a wise woman. Her trick worked like a charm and I would routinely devour Patates me Avga while blindly clinging to the belief that I did not eat eggs. I’m not sure if the moral of this story is if you add french fries to anything, you can get a kid to eat it? Or…lying to kids is good sometimes? Or… I wasn’t the smartest Greek kid on the block? Either way I’m so glad she tricked me because this dish is a keeper. French fries and eggs…it doesn’t get any simpler and there are few things more satisfying.  Continue reading

Fasolada (White Bean Soup)

photo-3(Photo credit: Nikolaos Merianos. See end of post for more details.)

Whether you love fall or dread it, you have to admit it’s a great time for a nice hot bowl of soup. Fasolada is a delicious white bean soup that warms your bones and fills your belly. It also happens to be vegan, so you can pat yourself on the back for making healthy choices while you enjoy this soup. Careful, don’t hurt yourself. ;) Continue reading

Yahnista Macaronia (Poor Man’s Spaghetti)

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Our parents’ generation grew up during very difficult times in Greece. World War II followed by the Greek Civil War resulted in widespread poverty and unrest. They don’ talk about it very much, but the few stories they do share are pretty harrowing. While our own working-class, immigrant upbringing was modest by American standards, compared to what our parents endured we grew up in the lap of luxury: plenty of food on the table, clean clothes on our backs, and a roof over our heads in a safe environment. Like a lot of American kids we were picky eaters, which was frustrating for parents who knew what it was to be truly hungry. Our Yiayia used to shake her head in disbelief when we rejected the food placed in front of us. One meal that we would always eat was Yahnista Macaronia. For our parents, this food is a symbol of poverty — they ate this in Greece because they had nothing else — so it is more than a little ironic that this is one of our all-time favorite meals. It is one of those simple comfort foods that fills your belly and makes you happy. The spaghetti is cooked in sort of a tomato-onion broth. When the starch from the pasta is released into the broth it transforms into a delicious sauce that coats every bite. Here is how you make it:  Continue reading

Lagana

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Don’t you want a bite of that right now? Lagana is basically the Greek version of focaccia — both are flat breads baked with olive oil. Focaccia is usually soft throughout but lagana has a crunchy crust with a soft center. Lagana was a special treat in our house when we were growing up. Yiayia baked bread almost every week, and if we were lucky she would save some of the dough to make a pan of lagana that would be devoured in minutes. It is insanely good, especially if you use high quality olive oil. We are lucky to receive a steady supply of amazing olive oil from our family’s village of Krokees, and that is what we used here. To make lagana, follow the basic instructions for Yiayia’s Bread. We have adjusted the ingredients in the recipe below to make enough dough for one pan of lagana.  If you don’t have the time, energy or desire to make your own dough you could use ready-made pizza dough. It won’t be as delicious as the homemade version, but it will still taste pretty great.  Continue reading

Lentil Soup (Fakes)

Braggy moment:  A huge thank you to Felicity Swaffer of ‘Back to the Drawing Board for naming kouzina cousins one of the 10 Best Greek Food Bloggers! We are honored to be in such great company! Be sure to check out Felicity’s blog (www.backtothedrawingboard.me) where she chronicles her adventures adjusting to living a simple life in Greece. [end braggy moment]

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Given the frigid temps we’ve been dealing with in the Northeast it’s hard to believe that lent started last week and Easter is around the corner. During lent, Greek Orthodox Christians practice varying degrees of “fasting”. No, not a trendy juice fast. In the Greek church, fasting means abstaining from all animal products: meat, dairy, eggs, and most fish. Some fast for the entire 40 day lenten period, some only on Wednesdays and Fridays, others just during Holy Week. In our house lent meant peanut butter sandwiches in our lunch boxes and plenty of Lentil Soup. Luckily this soup is delicious, especially with a hunk of fresh homemade bread on the side. As an added bonus, using the Greek word for this soup – “fakes” (fah-KESS) – lets you feel like you are getting away with swearing at the dinner table. :)  Continue reading

YiaYia’s Bread

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We had the most wonderful yiayia (grandmother) you could imagine.  She was sweet and fun, and was always ready to give family, friends, and strangers a hug and a smile…and bread. Yiayia made this amazing bread, by hand, every week.  Yiayia’s bread was on our table at every meal and while it always tasted good, to eat it fresh out of the oven was complete joy.  Our mother and aunt still make this bread a couple of times a month, and took the time to teach us the recipe, but to us this will always be yiayia’s bread. She was a special lady, and this is her famous bread.  Continue reading

Melomacarouna

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Melomacarouna are a popular Greek cookie often enjoyed at Christmas.  They are crumbly spice cookies that have been soaked in warm honey and then sprinkled with finely chopped walnuts. The recipe for this cookie is the perfect example of why we started this project to document family recipes.  This is what my mother’s recipe for Melomacarouna looks like:

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Spanakopita (Spinach Pie)

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Arguably the most famous of Greek dishes, no gathering of Greeks is complete without Spanakopita. This is one of those recipes that our mothers and aunts know how to make with their eyes closed. They don’t measure anything, and when you ask them how much of an ingredient to use they say things like “αρκετό” (enough) or “μπόλικο” (a lot). Not very helpful, right? Our Mom was starting to get a little annoyed with us while she made this Spanakopita because we kept stopping her to measure things. You will see her beautiful hands in a lot of these pictures. Those hands make a mean Spanakopita.  Continue reading

Fasolakia Yahni (Green Beans in Tomato Sauce)

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After the gluttony of Thanksgiving, does anyone else feel the need to ingest nothing but vegetables for the next couple of days?  If so, here is a recipe for you — but first you should understand something about Greek vegetables.  They are shall we say “cooked through”.  Never crisp or crunchy. When we were kids we might have described them as “mushy”, but now that we are all grown up and know better we use the term “velvety” instead.

Here’s how you make them…  Continue reading