Greek

Greek Christmas Cookies: Kourampiedes

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Every country or nation that has more than 50 years exposure to Christianity will have a special dessert that made exclusively around the Christmas time. Greece is no exception, and since it had embraced christianity for almost 2000 years the number of desserts for the occasion is huge. However, the one that is closer to my heart, because is delicious and also is what my grandma used to make every christmas, is the Kourampies (κουραμπιές, koo-ra-byies) that is a crumbly almond cookie dusted in powder sugar. Simple ingredients, humble cookie and big flavor. Although the Christmas reference of the cookie for most of the people comes from the white dusting of sugar, that resembles the snow, for me it is more the relation of the humble beginnings the cookies with the humble beginnings of the Messiah.

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Lentil Soup

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I am about to kick of the New Year with the probably most underrated legume of all times. Actually it is one of the most underrated food items of all time (except probably in India). Lentils! It is the one food that I used to hate as a kid and I love as an adult. As a kid all legumes were by far the worst food I could ever have. They were always served as a substitute to meat, especially during lent before Christmas, Easter or Dormition of the Theotokos (Assumption of Mary in the Roman Catholic Religion). They were usually (and by usually I mean 100% of the times) served in a soup form with tomato, garlic and the optional vinegar that very well suits them. I still, however, didn't like them because they were highly associated with the dreadful lent that meant one thing: no meat. And I am a generation Y kid. Born in the era of the fast-food globalization, the abundance of meat and wealth that spread all across Europe including Greece. And it is a shame. A big shame, because lentils are as reach in protein as meat. And of course a lot more healthy than meat.

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The Greek Adopted Dish: Hummus

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Greek restaurants across the USA had to adapt and adjust their menu and recipes. This usually happens with in three ways: i) the adaptation of classic recipes to whatever ingredients are available ii) the adaptation to the taste palette of the locals and iii) the adoption of dishes from other countries just because the locals seem to like them. Actually one of the most classic dishes, the poster child of the Greek food, the gyro sandwich originated in its final form in New York by Greek food track vendors out of necessity to battle tacos and shawarma as a fast food alternative. In the restaurant scenery, one of the Greek adopted dishes was, and still is, the hummus.

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My Take on a Classic: Greek Salad

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Greek salad is one the poster foods of greek cuisine. And for a good reason. It combines in a plate all the vegetables that mean summer in Greece; sweet juicy tomatoes, succulent snappy cucumbers, peppery sweet onions, crisp peppers and of course who can leave out the greek briny cheese, also known as feta. All of them held together with the power of olive oil, topped with oregano. A herb that is 100% greek. You find it in abundance in the hills and mountains of the greek country side. The greek salad is not only a delicious combination, but it is also visually appealing. As they say: you eat with your eyes first. And the crispness of the vegetables also engage your ears in the experience. It is therefore a full sense experience. The quintessential greek summer (and not only) dish.

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On the Foundation of Any Serious Meal: Bread

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Bread is the quintessential food item; The base of every civilization; The ultimate utilization and refinement of grains. It is the beginning and the end each meal. I know too much to tell, but imagine this world without bread. Bread through the history of the humanity has been the solely energy source. In ancient Egypt the slave working in the pyramids were fed on bread onions and garlic. In Greece there is a saying that describes friendship that goes like “We ate bread and salt together”. Bread and salt. Bread the basic food. The elemental food source. Salt the most precious commodity.

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Lost and Found: A Pie

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I am sure you have lost at some point something. Your keychain, your wallet, your pen, your lighter, your dignity… And many of these items you wish you can get back: Your keychain, your wallet, your pen, your lighter, your dignity… Especially your dignity. The last one however is pretty much unrecoverable. But for the rest you can hope. And actually Greeks have gone to great lengths to strengthen their hope. They have a saint for that and it is very popular. His Name St. Fanourios loosely translates to appear, so it is considered the St. that makes lost things appear again. To his honor there is a pie that is made to commemorate his abilities and acknoedge him. And here is when things get culinary interesting. When tradition, religion and superstition meet, the mix is quite interesting. First of all there is a restriction that requires that you either use 7 or 9 ingredients. That is ok as long as there are other specific guidelines for the types or kinds of the ingredients. If not, the someone can easily cheats by adding nuts, or raisins, or fruits artificially raising the number of ingredients to the target value. So I will follow that rule just because tradition dictates but only to a certain point. I will not count for example almonds and walnuts as two ingredients, they are just nuts. The strangest of all, however, is that Greek orthodox tradition requires that deserts are made according to the lent rules: No Eggs, No Dairy and No Meat.

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We are Back: The Food in Greece

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Well before I talk about the food in Greece, I would like to explain my absence from the blogging world. First of All on August 13th I went to Greece Where a friend of mine was getting married and I was the best man. He was getting married in Lesbos, the so famous island of the north Aegean sea, famous for the first ever Lesbian: Sappho. And I have said many time among circle of friends, that Sappho, was the  first woman to talk about desire for other women. She was from Lesbos so she was known as Sappho the Lesbian, and that ‘s how the name got started. I just mention that to get the laughter stop.

Anywa...

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The Making of a Legend: Tzatziki

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Tzatziki is one of the most widely known greek dishes, served in every greek restaurant and dinner. It is a dish that is served, with, grilled meat, stew meet, fried vegetables, stuffed vegetables, seafood, on its own as an appetizer with ouzo, or even with bread just like a spread. Although a very popular dish, there is no particular story associated with the tzatziki. Its origin is lost somewhere in the area of the middle east & balkans. In turkey there is a similar concoction that is called "cacik" (pronounced "tzatzik") and is a soup with cucumber, garlic and yogurt. All around the Balkans there is a similar dish that calls for yogurt and cucumber.

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Summer Food: Stuffed Tomatoes

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Tomatoes is one of the most stable, vegetables around the world and especially around the Mediterranean, and more pronounced in Spain, Italy, Greece and Turkey. What a proud title for a vegetable that was not even known 500 years ago in that region. The Spanish brought the tomato to Europe. It grew easily in Mediterranean climates, and cultivation began in the 1540s. It was probably eaten shortly after it was introduced, though it was certainly being used as food by the early 1600s in Spain. The earliest discovered cookbook with tomato recipes was published in Naples in 1692, though the author had apparently obtained these recipes from Spanish sources. However, in certain areas of Italy, such as Florence, the fruit was used solely as tabletop decoration before it was ever incorporated into the local cuisine until the late 17th or early 18th century.

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Are You Mature Enough?

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Since I was a kid, I remember a strange commercial. A man looking at the sunset with a glass of brandy next to him looking at the sun, without doing really anything. His eyes where just traveling like he was expecting something. And when the sun finally set, he grabs the brandy and enjoys it while the narrator was saying, “Metaxa, the only spirit that waits for you to mature.” Back then my taste buds where not as trained to very strong and earthy flavors, and I didn ‘t really liked the taste of it. And while the time was going by, I grew up and the taste of that Brandy became, from bitter, interesting, good, and finally complex and exceptional. It is a staple in the greek tradition with about 160 years history along side with the greek nation. It is my grandmothers favorite treat and the only spirit that still occasionally drinks. 

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