Fassoláda: the Traditional Bean soup, Revisited

The epitome of comforting, winter meal for Greeks, fassoláda is warming and filling. Prepared with the excellent ingredients from northern Greece that are now available, it becomes even more enticing!

 

I originally wrote and posted this seven years ago, as I was going through my first-grade school book published right after the Second World War. In it there was a description of fassoláda (bean soup), which was often referred to as ‘the Greek national dish’ in the old days. Surprisingly, the version in my book had no tomato! I was shocked, as fassoláda is always made with tomatoes as far as I can remember, but probably in those days canned tomatoes as well as tomato paste were not yet a common ingredient in all households. See also how the kitchen and stove looked in most parts of the country the 1950ies…

 

My revised recipe below is flavored with the wonderful Piperokama, the dried, smoked, hot peppers of Florina that our friend Naoumidis prepares.  I am told that it will be soon available in the US, as are his other deeply flavored roasted peppers which you can order  HERE and also HERE

 

We love to eat fassolàda with feta cheese, but also with canned sardines in olive oil or any smoked fish.

A simple bowl of olives, and/or taramosalata is the custom during the days of Lent, preceding Christmas.

 

Serves 4-6


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Eggplant and Squash pie with Peper, Cumin, and Walnuts

This pie is a rif on Melitzanopita tis Dramas (eggplant pie from Drama) a wonderfully complex and delicious pie I learned to make years ago in this northern Greek town, and have published in my first cookbook, The Fooods of Greece.

I though of adding squash and bell pepper to the eggpants as I had no leeks to sweeten and add color to the stuffing. This semi-open colorful pie/tart is the perfect main course for a vegetarian Thanksgiving or for any festive fall and winter meal.   

 

In the original pie of Drama sauteed leeks and eggplants are flavored with plenty of agad graviera cheese, and scented with cumin. Walnuts add a meaty taste to this delicious pie that I have baked on many occasions, both at home and also at various meals I have cooked over the years in the US. I often bake a rolled eggplant pie, as it is easier to cut and serve, especially if one uses commercial frozen phyllo, and not the wonderful home-rolled. 

 

 

Serves 10-12 (more…)

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Fish Soup: Between Kakavia and Bouillabaisse

My fish soup, as I learned to make it from my mother, is time consuming, but wonderful, although not really a glorious bouillabaisse.

Its flavor depends on the incredible freshness of the simple fish I use, which in most cases is almost alive when I get it from the caïque, less than a few hours out of the water.

I usually make the broth the day before, refrigerate it, then finish the soup the next day.

 

In kakavia, the traditional fish soup of the Greek fishermen, all kinds of small fish that cannot be sold, the cheapest kinds you find that are not suitable for grilling or frying, are boiled for with plenty of olive oil and a few vegetables and herbs, until the flesh almost falls from the bones and the vegetables are very tender. Then all trhe ingredients of the pot are strained, and fish witrh vegetables served in a platter along with the broth which is dressed with more fruity olive oil and lemon juice. I heard that in Provence the somewhat scarry weevers are considered ideal for the bouillabaisse; we also use them in this simple traditional fish soup. (more…)

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Feta in Phyllo Packages

I first had this clever and simple version of feta package in Eumelia, the Organic Agrotourism Farm in southern Peloponnese. Marilena, the owner, cook, and instructor, served us a large, home-rolled phyllo and feta package, which, as she explained, she prepares in advance, freezes it, and then briefly fries in a hot oil skillet whenever she needs to present a quick snack or meze. Her twist on the common phyllo triangles served at most taverns, is that the thin slices of feta inside the frozen phyllo are adequately heated through as the package is briefly fried, becoming particularly delicious. The soft cheese does not disintegrate inside the crunchy phyllo, as in most versions of the appetizer.

 

Chef Uri Eshet at Kea Retreat serves the packages with sliced figs; you can pair them with other fresh, seasonal fruit and/or with fruit preserves. Drizzle with honey or any syrup, and sprinkled with sesame seeds or nigella, if you like.

 

I bet that this easy, convenient, and delicious morsel, whipped up with commercial phyllo, will become your next favorite appetizer.  The pieces are quite filling, so one per person is enough.

 

To make 9 feta-phyllo packages (more…)

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