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.



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, while lahano-dolmades (stuffed cabbage leaves) is one of the most iconic winter dishes. Besides the comforting chicken avgolemono soup,  magiritsa, is the festive Easter soup prepared with the spring lamb’s innards, flavored with scallions, and dill, and finished with tangy avgolemono.


The traditional, elegant avgolemono is often abused in restaurants where flour is used to thicken and stabilize it so that it can be endlessly re-heated.


Meat with greens, artichokes and/or other vegetables 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 finish with an extra lemony avgolemono prepared using the wonderful, deep-yellow yolks of my neighbor’s eggs.






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Basic Tomato Sauce (Saltsa Domata)

Make it when you have plenty of vine ripened tomatoes. But in the winter, when good, ripe tomatoes are not available, use canned, or slice and roast the pale tomatoes available to intensify their flavor.

Instead of sugar, I sweeten the sauce with currents. 


Beyond pasta, the sauce can be used on flat,  breads complemented with crumbled feta or any other cheese. It is the basis for the vegetarian mousaka, and also for the stuffing for papoutsakia (eggplant slippers), with the addition of chopped, sauteed bell peppers and feta, graviera or any other cheese, with or without walnuts, or other nuts.


Yields about 3 cups sauce, enough for 1 pound pasta      




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