Lachmacun: Spicy Meat-topped Pita Bread

This is my most recent variation of Lachmacun, or ‘Arab Pizza’ as it is sometimes called. If you do not have time to make the dough, use a good quality, whole-wheat pita. Brush with olive oil and toast on the griddle or under the broiler. Then add the meat sauce and broil, again, briefly, with some halved cherry tomatoes.

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Of course it is better with home-made bread dough –I prefer to use my whole grain one— which I shape into longish flat-breads, let them rest a bit, then mix one egg into my versatile Spicy Meat Sauce so that it more or less keeps its shape as it bakes, and can be picked up and eaten without falling apart, as most Lachmacun do.

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Serves 2  (2 pieces)   (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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Spinach, Herb and Feta Skillet Pies (Gözleme)

Adapted from Mediterranean Vegetarian Feasts

Skillet pies –tiganokouloures or tiganopsoma in Greek, and gözleme or saç böreği in Turkish— have become our everyday project these days. Read more HERE.

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Next to the popular markets in Istanbul, and in most other Turkish cities and villages, there is usually a lady preparing gözleme.  She sits on the floor, rolling phyllo (or yufka, as it is called in Turkish) on a sofra – a large, low, round wooden table. Next to her burns a makeshift charcoal stove with a piping-hot saç griddle, a large concave drum blackened and shiny from years of constant use.  With these humble instruments she creates the most tempting street food the market has to offer. The large, half-moon-shaped pies are made to order.  Sheet after sheet of thin phyllo is rolled with the help of a long rod in less than a minute. She spreads either a mixture of greens, herbs and fresh salty cheese, or just dabs of creamy cheese with hot pepper and some dried or fresh mint. The gözleme are briefly toasted on both sides atop the saç, then folded or rolled and handed to the customer to devour on the spot. Gözleme is soft, sometimes the dough is not even fully cooked; eaten piping hot, these super-fast pies are very popular and there is usually a line of people waiting patiently to enjoy their treat.

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My version of a delicious skillet pie inspired by gözleme  is easy to make, provided you can roll phyllo. Unfortunately, the frozen commercial kinds cannot be used. In some parts of the US fresh yufka sheets are available. If you have a pasta machine it is easy to make your own thin phyllo strips and to create rectangular or square gözleme. They may look different from the traditional pies, but they will be equally delicious, as they toast to crispy perfection.

See also my dessert version, Skillet Pies with Chocolate and Nuts.

Serves 6

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Instant Pies with Greens or with Chocolate and Nuts

Skillet pies –tiganokouloures or tiganopsoma in Greek, and gözleme or saç böreği in Turkish— have become our everyday project these days.

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There are three reason for this late obsession of ours: First because Costas has almost completely mastered the art of rolling perfect phyllo and he is eager to use his new skill as often as possible; second, we gather plenty of wonderful, juicy spinach as well as chervil, fennel and other aromatic herbs from the garden; the third, and probably the most important reason of these repeated attempts is the newly acquired electric saç (hot-plate) that I brought from Istanbul.

Not that skillet pies cannot be cooked perfectly on a griddle or ridged skillet. They are ingenious creations of the frugal Mediterranean cooks who prepared in minutes a delicious snack or meal with whatever they happened to have at hand: wild or cultivated greens and herbs, grated zucchini or squash, eggplant, pepper or even cooked grains or beans, usually flavored with cheese and/or sausage. The recipe I have in my Mediterranean Vegetarian Feasts can be prepared in any kitchen, either here, or on the other side of the Atlantic. And this has been proven, since David Tanis chose to publish it at the New York Times, calling it ‘Greek Pie on the Skinny Side’.

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Stuffed Cabbage Leaves, Logs and Cabbage Heart

Based on a recipe from my book The Foods of the Greek Islands

I suggest using a combination of savoy cabbage and collards (or kale). The pink tomato-avgolemono sauce is my variation on the traditional recipe, and its lemony taste goes well with the sweetness of the stuffed cabbage leaves. As with most stews, it’s better to make this dish a day in advance and let the flavors develop overnight.

Since it contains meat, greens and rice, all you need to accompany it is a simple side dish of steamed carrots or turnips—pour some of the avgolemono sauce over them as well.cabbage-dolma1-Sw

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Makes 6 to 8 servings  (more…)

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Kapuska: Cabbage with Ground Meat and Farro

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A kind of deconstructed stuffed cabbage leaves, this is a wonderful and most satisfying winter dish. It is inspired by Ozlem Warren’s Bulguru Lahana Kapuska.  I substituted wheat berries (farro) for the bulgur, and omitted the pepper paste, adding lots of Maras pepper. I used white wine and very little water as the cooking broth, plus some crushed canned tomatoes. (more…)

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Rice Porridge with Olive Oil and Bay Leaves

This is my variation on lapas (pronounced lah-pàhs) the traditional Greek comfort food our mothers cooked for us whenever we were sick with a stomach or tummy ache. It is a soft risotto, that is best eaten as soon as it is taken off the heat.

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But I refrigerate the leftovers and reheat in the microwave, spaying with some water, since I never serve it plain. I use it much like polenta as the base for many different strongly-flavored toppings, like the Roasted Quince and Carrots –with or without eggs or chicken– or with Baked Scallion Meatballs and Avgolemono Sauce. But it is wonderful simply mixed with just crumbled feta or any other cheese.

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Traditionally Lapas has no herbs or other flavorings, but my Georgian friends, who also prepared a similar dish, added a few bay leaves which made it wonderfully aromatic. I took their idea and now bay leaves have become part of my rice porridge. (more…)

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Roasted Quince and Carrots with Garlic, Allspice and Turmeric

If you like, you can roast boned chicken legs together with the quince and carrots, basting them with the same combination of garlic, olive oil and spices (see variation).

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I know that quince is hardly a common ingredient for everybody, so I propose you roast instead a combination of cauliflower (briefly steamed first) and turnips if you have no quince. But do add a few tablespoons of lemon juice together with the olive oil and spices, since both cauliflower and turnips are sweet and lack the quince’s tartness that so well complements the roasted carrots’ flavor.

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Quince Carrot Baked & UN S (more…)

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