Avgolemono: the Elegant Egg and Lemon Sauce

The most sophisticated of the Greek sauces, avgolemono, a sauce of eggs and lemon juice, seems to have its roots in the Sephardic agristada. It probably came with the Jews who settled in Greece in the 16th century, fleeing from Spain and the Inquisition. Lamb-Avgolemono

Agristada and avgolemono both cleverly use eggs beaten with lemon juice to create an emulsion which thickens the cooking juices, much in the way the French use tangy crème fraîche.

Avgolemono is used with meat, fish, or just with vegetables. Fish soup avgolemono is usually cooked during the cold winter months, and magiritsa, the traditional Easter soup prepared with lamb innards and flavored with scallions and dill, is popular all over Greece. The elegant avgolemono is often abused in restaurants where flour is used to thicken and stabilize it so that it can be endlessly re-heated. It is sometimes called ‘fricassée,’ from the French chicken dish whose white, flour-thickened sauce has neither eggs nor lemons.

Here on Kea I learned to make avgolemono with the winter wild greens that are cooked with pork, while in the spring it complements the local, thorny artichokes that we braise with fresh fava pods and complement with an extra lemony avgolemono made with the wonderful, deep-yellow yolks of my neighbor’s eggs.

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Octopus or Fish Pie

Adapted from The Foods of the Greek Islands

The filling of this delicious pie from Cephalonia is unusual. The salty taste of seafood is complemented by the fresh flavor of zucchini, tomatoes, onions and garlic. The pie needs long, slow baking so that the rice can absorb the moisture in the filling and cook. The result is unbelievable. Octopus pies, a typical Lenten dish, are also prepared on Lesbos and other islands of the Aegean, but I love this particular version because of the special fragrance the cinnamon gives it.

This is a large pie, but any leftovers keep well for about 3 days in the refrigerator or can be frozen for up to 3 months, wrapped in aluminum foil and sealed in a zipperlock bag.

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I often make it into small individual pies, especially if I use our homemade phyllo. Leftover, charcoal-grilled octopus can also be used in the stuffing, and a bay leaf at the bottom of the pan makes the pies fragrant.

 

Makes 10 to 12 servings    (more…)

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Charcoal-Grilled Octopus, Marinated

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This is a much anticipated dish, part of the various, seasonal meze we serve during the welcome dinner for our Kea Artisanal guests. It is quite easy to prepare, as you can blanch the octopus and keep in the marinade for up to 4 days in the refrigerator. Just before serving heat the broiler or fire the BBQ and grill briefly over very high heat, just to caramelize the skin.

 

Serves 6-8 as meze  (more…)

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Tarama Spread (Taramosalata) or Smoked Herring (Rengosalata)

Fortunately, now we can get good quality carp roe –a far cry from the salty and tasteless, red-dyed one– so you can choose to make either taramosalata, or the more smoky-pungent rengosalata, using herring eggs, if you find them, or just the smoked fillets for the spread.

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Mine is not pink, but light green, as I use almost the entire, juicy scallions from my garden. The recipe evolved from my mother’s rengosalata –smoked herring or kipper spread– the meze she always served on Kathari Deftera (clean Monday), instead of the more common taramosalata.

An official holiday, Clean Monday marks the end of the Carnival and the beginning of spring. It is probably the continuation of ancient pagan feasts that have been incorporated to the Christian tradition. People eat outdoors —even if the moving feast happens on a cold February day— they fly kites, consume lots of wine and ouzo, and dance until sunset.  See MORE here, and also in my previous post about some of the food I had prepared, and if you like, read a more extensive account about the customs and roots of this unusual Greek feast, and also about the lunch I had organized at the Oxford Symposium inspired by Kathari Deftera.

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Marinated Sardines, Anchovies or Mackerel Fillets

Sardines & bread1 SUse my recipe for marinating the oily fish as a base, adding your favorite herbs or substituting scallions for the garlic. Let the fish ‘cook’ in the marinade for a few hours or overnight, or even better make it a full day in advance.

Sardines SServe on slices of crusty or toasted bread, as part of a meze spread, or take my lead and serve as main course, complementing greens, vegetables, beans or grain dishes – Sardeles Marinates is extremely versatile and easy to pair.

SERVES 4-6
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