Saturday, 24 March 2012

Day 35: The Health Benefits of Orthodox Fasting

(Source of image:

So we are on Day 35 of our humble blog about eating well (healthy and Lenten) during Great Lent (Μεγάλη Σαρακοστή).  As readers who have been following our entries can see, quite a few of the dishes we write about are not exactly diet food. Although they are generally vegan, some may wonder about the high carb count in some of the dishes. It is natural to also question the high amount of fat (oil) used in some dishes. So, the obvious question that some of you may be wondering is "How healthy is the diet of someone abstaining from animal products (except for crustaceans and some invertebrates such as octopus and calamari) during Great Lent?"

Well, for starters, OUR approach may not be typical of other Greek Orthodox Christians. We do live in Ontario, Canada, and are surrounded by a myriad of ethnic cuisines which lend themselves well to providing inspiration for Lenten dishes. So, although we may have touched on dishes such as Pad Thai, Mexican Burritos (Chipotle), etc., you'll notice that our dishes are mainly classic Greek dishes. 

What, then, does research say about the physiological effects of a traditional Greek Orthodox Lenten diet? There are a few ways to approach this question. For starters, how about examining how it affects those who practice it in the most dedicated manner. Much discussion has taken place about the very low level of cardiovascular disease and incidence of cancer in Greek Orthodox monks in Mt. Athos (the Holy Mountain), Greece. A couple of years ago, the popular U.S. television show 60 minutes discussed the astounding good health and longevity of monks in the Christian world's largest monastic community (see the video below).

(This CBS video, courtesy of 60 Minutes, is 14:23 minutes in length)

Clearly, not all of us are able or willing to live in the manner that Orthodox monks do. Research in the effects of a typical Orthodox diet (which includes over 200 days of abstinence from eating most animal products) has shown that lay people also benefit in a statistically significant manner. The world's leading research organization into healthy longevity, Blue Zones, has studied several regions of the world, including Okinawa (Japan), Costa Rica, Sardinia (Italy), Loma Linda (California, U.S.) and, most recently, the Greek island of Ikaria. This beautiful island has the highest percentage (in the world) of residents who live past 90 years old in good health. Blue Zones clearly identifies several reasons why Ikarians live so long, diet being one of them:

"Ikarians eat a variation of the Mediterranean diet (lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fish), which adds about six years of life expectancy. They also eat a lot of wild greens. We found 70 or so types of greens, many with 10 times the level of antioxidants in green tea or red wine. We also discovered five or six regularly consumed herbal teas, many of which are mild diuretics. If you’re diagnosed with high blood pressure, your doctor’s first line of defense is to prescribe diuretics. It turns out that just by drinking tea morning and night, these people are lowering their blood pressure over time." 

Notice the reference to "a variation of the Mediterranean diet" and not "fasting, Orthodox diet." But if we read on and read between the lines, we recognize this as being pretty well typical of one shared by most Greek households who observe some form of regular fasting (nisteia). Of course, practising Greek Orthodox also eat a variety of nuts, abstain from fish (except for the Annunciation of the Theotokos (March 25) and Palm Sunday), not overeat and generally interact in a positive, respectful and loving Christian manner towards others. Although Blue Zones doesn't delve too much into the spiritual world of the Ikarian residents, their research does, in fact, touch upon the importance of community and participation in the religious community of the island as being  contributing factors in the overall good health of these islanders.

How do Mount Athos Monks stay so healthy?

"Before you go running out to buy the Mount Athos diet book (there isn't one), you might want to consider their meal plan.
"They eat two meals a day. The 'first meal' lasts 10 minutes; the 'second meal' also lasts 10 minutes," Simon reported. "There's no meat and no dinner table conversation - the only sound is a monk reading from sacred texts."
Still, the results seem impressive. The health of 1,500 monks was studied between 1994 and 2007. None had developed lung or bowel cancer. Only 11 had prostate cancer, a fraction of the international rate, according to the The Independent.
The benefits associated with the Mediterranean diet - lower rates of cancer, heart disease, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's - have long been touted. And it's not that hard to follow. Eat mostly fruits and vegetables, use herbs instead of salt, replace red meat with fish and lean poultry, and ditch the butter for olive oil. Also, be sure to throw in a few glasses of red wine. And, perhaps most importantly, get plenty of exercise." 

Friday, 23 March 2012

Day 34: Pad Thai Simplified (great for those with peanut allergies)

Pad Thai is a dish made of rice noodles (noodles made from rice flour) and peanut sauce.  There are many versions, and different ways to prepare it.  We have found a quick, easy, and very basic way to prepare this dish, and to keep it appropriate for Great Lent.  It's a nice way to bring a different ethnic flare to your fasting choices.  

A traditional dish of Pad Thai includes eggs, fish sauce, chicken, and bean sprouts.  We have minimized the ingredient list to get a similar flavour with many fewer steps and to make it absolutely Lent appropriate.  

We chose to use medium rice sticks noodles, which can be purchased at any Asian supermarket, or specialty store for the pasta part of this dish.  These days, it is likely that major grocery chains even carry a variety of rice noodles.  They are comparable to (and can be substituted for or with) vermicelli or fettuccine in thickness.  

There are several different styles of rice noodles, just like there are different styles of traditional pasta.  The noodles range from very thin to very wide noodles, and this is something to consider for various dishes.  Using a thin rice noodle for this dish seems wrong to us because thin noodles are not substantial enough to hold the sauce.  A peanut butter based sauce is thick, and you want to find a noodle with the thickness that will hold the sauce and will not get lost in a bowl with any additional ingredients.  Thin rice noodles are often used in soups and stir fries.  Thicker rice noodles are used in other dishes, including stir-fries and noodle dishes.

Back to the ingredients...
We have the rice noodles, which we know are a good Lenten food.  The recipe calls for soy sauce, brown sugar, rice vinegar, red pepper (chile) flakes, and peanut butter.  All of these are completely appropriate for Lent, and for any time of year.  When seeing our pictures, you may notice that we are using the WOWButter that was explained in a previous post (see Day 19: The Breakfast Challenge for more information about WOWButter).  This is just our preference, but you can use any peanut or peanut substitute butter that you like. 

For this day, we decided to add shrimp to our dish to have a boost of protein in our meal.  Usually, we would include a variety of fully-cooked pieces and combinations of tofu, chicken, shrimp, and beef.  The shrimp by itself is a nice change for us, and really simplifies this recipe.  Since we are allowed to have shellfish through Great Lent, we have found that frozen shrimp is one of the easiest to keep on hand for a quick meal.  We are also aware that there are many people who don't like shrimp or tofu, and you can pick and choose what kind of protein to add to suit your tastes. You may choose to just use the noodles and sauce, which is fine, but for us, the texture is not appealing enough without something else -- even just bean sprouts or scallions make a huge difference in the texture.  All or any of these things can be added or omitted to this recipe.  

Please make sure that the shrimp are fully cooked before starting this recipe.  That will be a key factor in how much time is spent for this recipe and it will help in food safety issues of adding raw foods to cooked foods.  Cook the additions before adding to this recipe.

The steps for this dish are easy.  The recipe was taken from a collection of recipes that we have amassed over the years, and the exact source is unclear.  However, we know this recipe works and is simple.  It is easy to make and uses rather typical ingredients, which we think make for a good weeknight dinner, especially in a hurry!

You need the following ingredients to serve 4-6 people:

1 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup water
 6 Tbsp. brown sugar
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup rice vinegar
2 tsp. chile flakes or red pepper flakes, to taste
rice noodles (500 g or 1 lb. (454 g) package, depending on what's available in your supermarket)

First, make the sauce.  You will need the first six ingredients on the list.  If you start by making the sauce, then there is some time that the sauce can sit and "gel" in the sense of combining all the flavours together nicely.

Here is how you make the sauce:

1.  Put the peanut butter and some water in a pot and heat the peanut butter until it melts and becomes creamy.  Use a medium to medium-high heat so not to burn anything.

3.  Once the peanut butter and water are melted together and smooth, add the brown sugar and red pepper flakes, and mix it all together very well.  You can use a whisk, spoon, fork, or submerging blender to mix.  Use whatever is convenient for you.

4.  Next, add the soy sauce and the rice vinegar to the pot.

5.  Continue to heat the mixture on a medium to medium-high heat, stirring occasionally until everything is well-combined and smooth.  Bring the temperature of the mixture to a high simmer -- not quite boiling, then turn the heat control to low.  Keep the sauce warm while preparing your noodles.

7.  Rice noodles are very easy to cook.  Just boil some water, and put the dry noodles in the pan with boiling water, and allow the noodles to cook for just five to ten minutes until they are transparent in colour and soft to the bite.  It is not common to have al dente rice noodles, but if you prefer that texture, then cook them for less time.  We cook ours for about 8 minutes, going for a softer noodle.  This is, once again, a personal preference.  Sometimes, if the noodles are al dente, they stick together a lot, and that's a problem, especially with a thick sauce. 

Another method to cook rice noodles, especially if you don't have a pan that fits the noodles, then put them in a bowl, and pour the boiling water over the noodles.  Cover the bowl.  Allow the noodles to sit in the hot water in the covered bowl for five minutes, then strain.  Soaking or boiling is a good method to cook any rice noodles. 

When the noodles are cooked to the doneness that you like, drain the water from the noodles.  

8.  While the noodles are in the colander, draining, add any previously cooked shrimp, tofu, or other protein and additions to the warm sauce.  Whatever you are adding should be fully cooked.  We transferred our sauce to the bigger frying pan to have enough space to mix all of the ingredients together.  We chose the frying pan because the larger surface heated quickly, and gave us room to add everything we wanted to that one pan.

9.  Next, once the shrimp are warm, add the hot, drained noodles to the pan.  Toss or mix the noodles with the sauce and shrimp to make sure all noodles are fully coated.

10.  Once all the ingredients are combined, serve and enjoy!

You can garnish this with some chopped scallions, or leave it plain.  Served with a side salad or some steamed vegetables, this makes for a satisfying, complete Lenten meal in a very short period of time.

Lenten Prayers
Almighty Master, who created all things in wisdom, by Your providence and great goodness, you have led us to this lenten season for purification of our souls and bodies, and for control of our passions in the hope of the resurrection; You, who after forty days gave Moses the tablets of the law inscribed by Your divine hand, grant to us the strength to fight the good fight, to fast, to keep the faith, to crush under foot all evil demons, and to become victorious over sin and to celebrate Your holy Resurrection. For blessed and glorified is Your most honoured and majestic name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, both now and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Day 33: Melitzanosalata, Μελιτζάνοσαλατα, Greek Eggplant (aubergine) Dip

Dips are a great way to fill in a meal.  Since there is usally bread on the table -- whether it is pita bread, homemade crusty bread, or dinner rolls, there is bread.  With bread it is easy to add a dip to incorporate one more vegetable to the meal or to add one more appetizer for company.  Melitzanosalata (Μελιτζάνοσαλατα) is a popular, simple choice.

For a long time, we did not really master the art of a flavourful eggplant dip.  That was until we started following the recipe from Vefa's Kitchen.  The recipe in Vefa's book is straight forward, simple, and clear.  We love the fact that there are only five ingredients to use, and then some garnishes.

For this recipe you will need the following to make 2 cups of dip:
2 1/4  pounds eggplant (1 kg)
1/4 teaspoon salt
2-3 cloves garlic, chopped fine
1/2 cup olive oil
about 4 Tablespoons red wine vinegar

Options for garnishes:
2 Tablespoons fresh parsley
1mild green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 tomato, seeded and chopped

The directions are easy, and adaptable to the most novice of cooks.  We are writing the very simplified version, and based on our experience, we will include our own observations.
  • Start by slicing the eggplants in half lengthwise.  Put them on a cookie sheet or in a baking pan with the cut side up.  We lined our cookie sheet with parchment paper, but this was totally unneccesary.  The eggplants do not stick to the cookie sheet becaue they release some liquid.  
  •  Sprinkle a little salt on the eggplants.

  • Place in the preheated broiler (high setting) until the skins are charred (time will vary with broiler).  We started with the cut side up, but we should have started with cut side down.  This would have given the skin a chance to really char nicely.  Instead, we flipped the eggplant pieces a couple of time to get that nice, even charred colour.
  • While the eggplants are still hot, but cool enough to handle, scoop out the meat from the eggplant skin.  We used a spoon to do this, and the flesh of the eggplant fell out of the skin nicely on its own.

  • Once the flesh is in a bowl, allow the eggplant to cool completely.
  • Add a little salt and the chopped garlic to the eggplant.  Mix everything together well.  In the book, the directions call for an electric mixer.  We do not have one, so we chose to mash with a fork.  The texture is amazing, and you can see the chunks and strings of eggplant throughout the bowl.  The garlic needs to be chopped very fine, otherwise, you will get chunks of garlic.
  • Add the olive oil a little at a time, and mix until it is all absorbed.  We found this to be the most challenging step.  If you have another person with you, then you can maintain a steady stream of olive oil while mixing; but doing this alone was hard, because you add some oil, then mix, then add some oil, then mix -- it made the absorption rate harder to judge.
  • Next, gradually add the vinegar to taste.  We used all 4 tablespoons of Greek Niki red wine vinegar, and then added another teaspoon as Vefa's recommendation of 4 tablespoons was not enough (in our opinion).  We aren't sure know if the vinegar was not strong enough to come through the eggplant flavour, or if we just like the bite of the vinegar, but we felt it needed just a little more than the recipe stated.
  • Transfer to a serving bowl and chill in the refrigerator.  We couldn't wait to taste it, and boy oh boy -- it was GOOD!  We did just a couple of tastes, and then put it in the fridge.                                         
  •  Garnish before serving.  We used a little parsley and an olive (see the picture below).

This is beautiful.  The speckles of the charred flesh, the roughly chopped garlic, and the strings of the eggplant made for an appetizing texture.  This was an easy recipe to follow, and we know that when using Vefa's recipes, we are likely to have a good dish.  We like this book because the author stays close to the classic methods, classic ingredients, and really epitomizes Greek food.  There are substitutions mentioned for this dish (as well as others), but we did not need to substitute anything to make it better or because of lack of availability of the ingredients.  The fact that  substitutions are listed in this cookbook is a bonus in case you don't have a particular ingredient on hand.

With this recipe, we are sure that Melitzanosalata (Μελιτζάνοσαλατα) will become a more common dish in our household.  Next time we make papoutsakia or moussaka, we will have to buy extra eggplant just for this lovely, appetizing dip!

From the Triodion (text by Archbishop Kallistos Ware)

Knowing the commandments of the Lord, 
let this be our way of life:
Let us feed the hungry, let us give the thirsty drink,
Let us clothe the naked, let us welcome strangers,
Let us visit those in prison and the sick.
Then the Judge of all earth will say even to us:
Come, ye blessed of My Father, 
inherit the Kingdom prepared for you.

Day 32: Gigantes (Baked Giant Greek Lima Beans with Vegetables in Tomato Sauce)

One way to get enough protein, iron and fiber in one meal while fasting is by eating (enjoying) Gigantes (Γίγαντες).  Every person from every part of Greece, and even non-Greeks make their own variation of this delightful, tomato-laden dish.  The word gigantes (γίγαντες) refers to Giants -- that is to describe the beans used in preparing this food.  They are broad beans, butter beans, or giant lima beans, sometimes even called elephant beans.  They are creamy and smooth when cooked, and absorb the flavour of whatever you put with them (such as tomato sauce).  Restaurants all over have featured this dish as a main entree, a side dish, and some, even part of the breakfast menu.  Homes across the world have gigantes at varying times and for different occasions because it is that much of a staple food.  Heck, even Bobby Flay, famous non-Greek chef has a recipe for γίγαντες!  It is a food that can be enjoyed any time of day, hot or cold.  So, today, as part of our humble blog, we are going to share with you how we make giant lima beans baked in tomato sauce -- gigantes (γίγαντες).

Just a mention  about the nutrition of these beans -- beans, in general, are an excellent source of protein.  They are a dietary must for vegetarians.  They are also a good source of fibre.  Often, people will associate fibre with gas, but there are ways around that.  Soaking the beans and changing the water a few times through that process will help alleviate some of the gas following.  Also, if you par-boil the beans, rinse, and then repeat, that, too, will eliminate some of the bean gas, without eliminating the nutritional benefits.  

Iron is the other big nutrient in this food.  It is known that many Greeks suffer from anemia and need to boost their levels of iron.  Eating beans is a great and easy way to do that!  And, because of the variety of preparations for many types of beans, they can be eaten daily.  

When growing up, this was not a food that I was accustomed to eating.  We ate beans, but not lima beans.  I guess that's because my parents did not like them.  To this day, my mother does not like them.  But, marrying into a family that loves beans (and Beano), this was a dish that I had to learn how to make and enjoy since it was on the table at many family dinners.  My father-in-law actually taught me how to make this dish, and he is known for preparing "the best gigantes" in some circles.  There are, of course, other ways to make it, and many variations, but this is Patera's method.  

The first step to making a bean dish from dried beans is to soak the beans overnight.  Change the water a few times, as mentioned above, to help prevent some of the gas.  See how the beans explode and triple in size (below)?  You really need only about one cup of beans for two people to eat well.  Once the beans are soaked, they are ready to cook.  We will use only the soaked beans for this recipe.  The dry beans are just to show the effect of soaking.

Now, gather your ingredients.  You will need 1 large or 2 medium onions, 3 to 4 stalks of celery (you can include leaves), salt, pepper, and tomato puree (sauce).  You can use stewed tomatoes if you want the chunkiness of the tomato in the dish.  But, it is a short ingredient list of things that you likely have on hand.  

Start your preparations by cutting up the vegetables (onions and celery).  These can be rough cut, and do not need to be perfectly diced or sliced.  Just make sure that they are close to the same size.  

Heat some olive oil in a pot (medium to medium high heat) and add the onions and celery.  Cook these until they are soft and tender.  We put a cover on the pot so the steam helps to cook the vegetables more quickly.  

Once the vegetables are soft, add about 1 cup of water to the pot to make the vegetables soupy.  Then, season with salt and pepper, and add the tomato sauce.  We add half the bottle, which is about 16 ounces (two cups).  There is some variation in how much tomato sauce to use -- if you are using tomato paste, use half the can with enough water to cover the vegetables (about two cups).  You want this dish to have a strong enough tomato presence.  Heat the tomato sauce in the pot with the vegetables.

Next, add the drained beans (ones that were soaked and par-boiled) to the pot.  Mix everything well to make sure all the beans are coated with tomato sauce.   Add more water until the beans are fully submerged. 

Put the pot in the oven and bake at 375° F (approximately 190° C) for about one hour.  This may go on to one and a half hours, depending on how much you boiled the beans before starting the process.  You want to cook it long enough for the beans to become soft and buttery.  Check the pot about half way through the cooking to make sure there is still enough water to cook the beans.  You can always add a cup of water or more as needed while it is in the oven.  After one hour, check the doneness of the beans.  They should be perfectly soft all the way through, and this is the time to adjust the seasonings (salt and pepper).  When they are done cooking, allow the dish to sit for about 15 minutes before serving.  You can serve this hot, room temperature, or cold.  

If you do not have a pot that is oven proof, then you can pour the mixture into a baking pan.  We have used both metal pans and glass pans -- either one is fine.  Allow enough room in the pan for the beans to expand a bit more and to allow enough water for the cooking progress. You want to make sure that you have enough water to cover the beans, and enough space to accommodate that water.  

Another option is to boil the gigantes.  Leave the pot on the stove and once you add the tomato sauce and beans to the pot, mix well and then bring the mixture to a boil.  Cover the pot and turn down the heat to a simmer.  Then, allow the beans to simmer for about one hour until the beans are soft and creamy in the center.

This method is often much easier for people since the pot and the burner are already hot.  The key, really, is to make sure there is enough water in the pot to fully cover the beans.  Then, you will have to stir occasionally, as the bottom of the pot may start to burn.  You do not have to stir while the beans are in the oven, so this may be an extra step.

Some variations you may want to try when making gigantes include, but are not limited to the following:
adding carrots, adding potatoes, using a bay leaf for seasoning, adding some chopped spinach, sweetening the tomato sauce with a little honey, adding artichokes.  Finally, my husband frequently uses a dash of Frank's Red Hot Sauce to season the finished product (on his own plate, not the pot).

Prophet Isaiah on fasting
“Is not this the fast that I choose, to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free…? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, to bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked to cover him… then shall your light break forth like the dawn …” (Isaiah 58)

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Day 31: Papoutsakia a.k.a. Imam Bayildi: Eggplant at its best!

Papoutsakia is a cute Greek word that means "little shoes."  It is the name of a food that is one you either love or hate.  I don't know many people who think that eggplant is just okay.  Some of us love the strong, bitter taste of eggplant.  We don't mind the soft, almost slimy texture of cooked eggplant, whereas others may find that same texture offensive.  There are some substitutes for eggplant in different dishes.  For example, you may want to use zucchini  instead of eggplant to make moussaka.  With the addition of a layer of potatoes, the different vegetable is barely noticeable.  

If you are one of the people who are unsure about how much you like or do not like eggplant, you may want to try a different type or variety.  There are several varieties that are readily available in the market, including the long, Chinese eggplant, the white eggplant, the stout Italian eggplant, or the typical, oval-shaped black eggplant.  Each one has a different level of bitterness, and offers a little variety in overall flavour and colour to a dish.

Today, we have chosen to use the long, slender Chinese eggplant.  These are, in our opinion, the closest  resemblance to a shoe -- and for making a dish that is called "little shoes," we thought this would be most appropriate.  Also, we have found that these are less bitter than the large, black eggplants.  So, what is the story of papoutsakia, exactly?

Traditionally, this dish includes a meat filling and a cheese topping.  Some may describe it as individual moussaka because of the similar ingredients (meat, cheese, eggplant...)  Obviously, we are abstaining from both meat and cheese, so we have decided to simply omit them from the recipe.  But, how could this be the same dish?  Well, that's easy.  There is another dish, that is the vegetarian version of papoutsakia, known as Imam Bayildi.  There is no meat and there is no cheese in the recipe, therefore making the dish completely appropriate for Great Lent and any fasting time.  We chose to use the Greek name instead of the Turkish because we are Greek-proud.  The name Imam Bayildi means "the imam (Muslim cleric) fainted."  Some folk lore states that the priest had fainted from his shock of the amount of olive oil used in this dish.  Some say that the priest wept instead of fainted.  Either way, the common factor in the two dishes is that there is  a lot of oil used here.

We chose to follow the recipe from the superb coobook by Susanna Hoffman The Olive and the Caper: Adventures in Greek Cooking.  This is the first time we are making this dish from this cookbook.  There have been many times that we have made this dish from memory, from other cookbooks, but we are always looking to improve and perfect our techniques and recipes, so we wanted to try this one.  As mentioned, we have simply omitted the meat and cheese from this recipe.  

This is a lengthy process, so be prepared to spend an hour getting all of the ingredients ready.  To feed 6 people, you will need the following: 3 medium eggplants (we have 6 small), 1/2 cup olive oil, 2 medium onions sliced finely (we used both red and white onions for the sweet and colourful combination), 10 to 12 garlic cloves, chopped, 3 Tablespoons tomato paste, 2 teaspoons dried Greek oregano, 1/2 teaspoon salt, some ground black pepper to taste, 1 cup dry red wine (we use whatever bottle of dry red wine that we are drinking at the time).

First, cut the eggplant in half lengthwise.  (we also cut ours to make the pieces shorter, so they were easier to handle in the pan and in the baking dish; and this gave us more pieces to feed the whole family!)

Scoop out the center of each half, leaving a thin layer on the skin.  Keep the scooped parts!  (this was not easy -- we tried a melon baller to scoop and a knife to cut out the flesh; they were equally difficult)

Chop the scooped eggplant pulp.  (we believe that this is easier with big eggplants, but the slender ones still worked fine).

Next, heat 1/4 cup of the oil in a large pan.  Cook the onions and garlic until they are soft.  

Add the eggplant pulp, tomato paste, oregano, salt, pepper, and wine.  Bring this to a boil.

Simmer the filling until the liquid is reduced by half -- about 45 minutes (for us, this took a little less time because we used a shallow frying pan and a little higher heat than just a simmer).

While that is cooking, heat another pan with the remaining1/4 cup of oil.  Fry the eggplant shells in the pan until they are brown on both sides and very soft. (about 10 minutes each side -- some took longer, some took a shorter time; we found that the more meat that was left on the skin fried nicer and looked better).

When they are done, line them in a baking dish so they are packed well with the cut side up.  Keep this to a single layer (we found that alternating the stem side helped to pack these into the baking dish).

Fill the eggplant shells with the onion mixture.  Pour any extra filling on top of the eggplants (there was not that much extra after actually filling the shells).

Pour some water around the eggplant until it reaches about 1/4 inch deep.  Do not cover the eggplants (just enough that the eggplants won't stick to the baking pan).

Bake in the oven at 350 F for one hour until everything is soft and the filling is bubbling (and it will smell scrumptious!)

Serve hot, or cool completely in the refrigerator for an hour and serve cold.

So, what did we think about the recipe from The Olive and the Caper: Adventures in Greek CookingThis recipe from the book was easy enough to follow.  There are nice stories to go with the recipe, and a little history about almost every dish.  The steps are numbered to make it easy to identify.  We did find that the directions are clear, but we needed some more specific details about a few steps.  For example, the directions tell us to fry the eggplant shells until browned and wilted.  We found "browned" produced a result that was too well done, and "wilted" did not seem done enough, so we had to find the happy medium.  You can see by our photographs that the first few eggplant pieces were cooked until browned -- but they were outright crispy.  Then, as we got to the second batch, we went to "wilted" doneness, and that was okay, but the "meatier" shells looked raw.  So, we cooked the eggplant until the edges started to brown, and that seemed to be right.  Once we filled the eggplant shells with the vegetables, the baking dish looked full and plentiful.  However, we followed the directions and baked the pan for one hour and burned the top of the dish. This did not look appealing, but the flavour was delightful.  It was really just the natural caramelization of the tomato sauce that made the dark colour.  This is the same thing we were trying to avoid when cooking the filling -- that's why we stirred occasionally.  So, next time, we may bake it for less time or cover it with foil to prevent that dark colour.

Overall, we did like the information that this book offers about the history of a dish, or the tale or story that involves the food -- that's part of the charm of this cookbook that is fast becoming a family favourite. Its excellent research into obscure, but very important, texts that explain the origins of many Greek foods is greatly appreciated by us.  There is a lot to read and the pictures that are in this book are not just about the food, so that made the reading a little more interesting.  

We would use this book again for some classic recipes.  And, who knows, we may just make this recipe again -- maybe even with the meat and the cheese!

"I shall speak first about control of the stomach, the opposite to gluttony, and about how to fast and what and how much to eat. I shall say nothing on my own account, but only what I have received from the Holy Fathers. They have not given us only a single rule for fasting or a single standard and measure for eating, because not everyone has the same strength; age, illness or delicacy of body create differences. But they have given us all a single goal: to avoid over-eating and the filling of our bellies... A clear rule for self-control handed down by the Fathers is this: stop eating while still hungry and do not continue until you are satisfied."