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


(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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Dried Fruit, Pistachio, and Orange Olive Oil Cake

A moist, fragrant, and barely sweet vegan cake that can be a treat with tea or coffee, or enjoyed as a snack any time of day. It should be made a day in advance, and it keeps for at least a week, getting better each day if stored in an airtight container at cool room temperature.

 

My mother used to bake a cake similar to this during Lent. We were not so religious as to follow the rules of the Church, which prohibited eating any food derived from animals during the forty days before Christmas and before Easter (and on many other occasions). We were simply continuing a family tradition which dictated that various foods or sweets should be made at a particular time of year.

The caramelized ginger, my recent addition to the recipe, enhances the rich flavor of this cake that has a dense texture, somewhat like an English fruitcake. 

 

Makes one 12 X 5 inch (30 X 12cm) cake (more…)

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The Seedy Grapes from our old Vines

Most of the grapes our vines produce hardly manage to ripen; wasps and all kinds of insects attack them as soon as they start to blush.

This year, though, we managed to harvest quite a few bunches to fill two large baskets. But our grapes are what the locals call ‘krasostafyla’ (wine-grapes), sweet but filled with seeds and quite difficult to swallow.

 

Early this August, as we finished harvesting the almonds, we noticed quite a few nice bunches of grapes hanging from the old, robust vines that engulf the southern fence of our property, behind the lemon trees.  From these vines we mainly gather the tender grape leaves early in May, to stuff and make our trademark dolmades.

 

Usually the grapes our vines produce hardly manage to ripen; wasps and all kinds of insects attack them as soon as they start to blush. Come harvest time, we just find a few bunches of rotten, half-eaten grapes which are sweet but filled with seeds and difficult to swallow.

 

 

These vines are probably a remnant of the old vineyards our little valley was famous for; the dark grapes used to produce quite good wine in the old days, as I discovered researching the paper I wrote for the 2017 Oxford Symposium: (more…)

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Cold Yogurt Soup with Cucumber, Herbs, and Rose Petals

This hauntingly aromatic Persian soup, adapted from a recipe by Iranian-American chef Hoss Zaré, combines nuts and raisins with dill, mint, chives or scallion, and dried rose petals, all suspended in yogurt, creating a delicate, refreshing, and crunchy soup.

Unlike the boldly flavored cacik, the Turkish yogurt-cucumber-garlic soup, common throughout the Mediterranean –an ancestor of tzatziki– this older, fragrant Persian soup has no garlic.

I use almonds or pistachios instead of the walnuts the original recipe calls for, and I add preserved lemon, which enhances the soup with its salty-tangy flavor. I suggest you double the recipe and enjoy it the next morning for breakfast.

 

 

Serves 6 (more…)

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