Friday, 6 April 2012

Day 48: Cabbage and Olive Salad

Today, we went through the refrigerator to see what we had so we could make something interesting.  It's important that sometimes we make due with what's on hand rather than buying new things.  So, today, we found that we had some cabbage and some bell peppers.  That encouraged us to strart reading our cookbooks to see what interesting thing we could make with either cabbage, bell peppers or both.  This is what we found...

Most of the cookbooks use bell peppers for three basic things -- yemista (stuffed peeppers), roasted peppers, or to cut into salad.  We just made yemista (and wasn't it delicious!), so we wanted something else.  What about cabbage?  Are there any cabbage recipes?  We had bought cabbage with the thoughts of making cole slaw -- the oil and vinegar kind, but that had not yet materialized.  So, is there something else we could do?  Of course there is the stuffed cabbage leaves (lahanodolmathes) that are similar to dolmathes (stuffed grape vine leaves) and we'll do that recipe for you eventually.  And, there is always coleslaw or cabbage soup.  You know, there are so many schools of thought that tell us that cabbage is a good and healthy food.  But, some people complain that cabbage creates gas, and some say it has no flavour.  In reading this recipe, we think the flavour comes from whatever we add to the cabbage.  So, today, we are going to try to make cabbage salad that has flavour, has good nutritional value, and has nice plate appeal. 

So, what we learned from reading all of our cookbooks is that each region of Greece has a different type of cabbage salad.  Today's recipe hails from the the cookbook titled The Complete Book of Greek Cooking, and has some interesting combinations of flavours that we wanted to try.  The book gave no real explanation of the history of this dish, but told us that cabbage based salads are quite common in Greece.  So, we figured this would be the equivalent of a Greek Cole Slaw!  It is simple shredded cabbage tossed with olives and a light vinaigrette dressing.

For this recipe to serve four you will need:
1 head of cabbage
12 black olives
6 TBSP olive oil
2 TBSP lemon juice
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 TBSP fresh parsley, chopped

Here are the basic directions for this recipe.  It should take you less than 20 minutes to cut, mix, and season everything, provided you have all the ingredients on hand.

First, clean up the cabbage.  Remove the outer leaves that are usually softer than the centre.  They often have spots on them, too, so take one or two layers off the outside of the cabbage.  Then, cut the head of cabbage into quarters and remove the core from each section.  It's easier to do it in quarters, because you can angle your knife along the core to remove it.  

Once the cabbage is cleaned and the core is removed, shred the cabbage as thin as you are able.  We could have used a food processor here, but it seemed easy enough to do by hand.  You will have to decide if you use a food processor, a mandolin, or a knife.  You will also have to decide if you want to use the entire head of cabbage or not.  Our mixing bowl held half the head of cabbage shredded, so we stopped at half, but we now have more cabbage if we want to make this recipe again.

Next, put the shredded cabbage in a large mixing bowl and add the olives.  We counted 12 olives for this recipe, but thought it could have used a few more.  We ended up putting a few more at the end.  Mix the cabbage and olives together so the olives are evenly distributed throughout the cabbage.

Now, set that bowl aside, and make the dressing in a separate bowl.  You can see by our picture that we mixed the dressing in a measuring cup.  It seemed like a practical choice at the time. 

Start by measuring the olive oil.

Add the lemon juice.
Add the chopped parsley.

Chop the garlic.
Add the chopped garlic to the other dressing ingredients.
Put all the dressing ingredients in a bowl and mix well.  Add the oil, lemon, parsley, and garlic in a bowl and mix well.  The dressing may appear like it is getting a bit thick.  Our first impression with this is that it was not going to be enough dressing. But, once it started to thicken a bit, we saw that it would be a reasonable amount for the quantity of cabbage (half a head).  We are not convinced that this would have been enough dressing had we used the entire head of cabbage.  Mix the dressing well.

Mix all the dressing ingredients well.
The dressing may start to look thicker.

Then, pour the dressing all over the cabbage mixture.  You want to make sure to get all the bits of garlic and parsley out of the mixing bowl.  That's where the flavour really lies, is in the garlic and parsley. 

Pour the dressing over the cabbage mixture.
Mix the salad well.  Try to mix it so that the parsley is evenly distributed throughout the salad, and make sure that all the cabbage is coated with the dressing.

Mix well.

Mix the salad well.
Adjust the seasoning with a little more lemon or even a little salt.  Then, serve chilled or at room temperature and enjoy.

The final product -- Cabbage and Olive Salad.
This was a lot of cabbage.   Even half the head seemed like a lot of cabbage for this salad.  Our first impressions were that we would be eating cabbage salad for two weeks!  But, we stopped at half the head to make sure that did not happen.  We are not sure that using the whole head of cabbage would have worked for us in several areas -- we would have too many leftovers, we would't like it and then we would throw it away and waste all the time, money, and effort, or even that we would have too much cabbage and too few olives.  In the end, it turned out to be a good amount of salad for a side dish for four people by using half a head of cabbage and the full amount of the other ingredients.

Oil, lemon, garlic, and parsley together always make a good dressing.  We had no complaints about this combination, but did wonder if it would be enough dressing for the entire head of cabbage.  Even hours later, we were pleased with having shredded only half the head of cabbage.  This amount of dressing, we think, would have to double if we had more cabbage.  But, we liked the dressing.

Now, the tasting:

"Needed a little salt, or a little more lemon juice," was the common reaction.  There was something missing to round out the flavour.  Husband ended up adding a little vinegar, just to give this salad a punch of flavour.  It was crunchy, too.  I guess we are part of the culture that is used to eating softer cabbage.  This was really crunchy.  Some people like that, so for other people this might be good.

We loved the olives in the mix.  It was like eating marinated olives with some crunchy salad.  Have you eaten olives that have oil, oregano and a little of the olive brine -- yummy!  So, the dressing with the lemon juice and parsley really stuck to the olives.  Although, by the second bite, we all agreed that the olives would have been better as pitted olives, but you would lose the whole effect of these luscious, beautiful fruits in this salad.  

We must say that this salad looked beautiful!  It looked so pretty with the colours of the black shiny olives, the deep green parsley, and the fresh white cabbage coming together...  By its looks, alone, this salad really stood out on the dinner table as something unique, light and appealing.

So the overall taste of this salad was pleasant.  It had a light flavour, a definite crunch, and a variety of textures.  It was different, and we want to make note that it did taste better after a couple of hours, when the lemon juice had a chance to sink into the cabbage and soften the shreds.  

The biggest barrier for us was getting past our predetermination that this salad should have been like coleslaw, with a delightful and tangy bite.  When that wasn't true, we had to wait a bit and have a little more.  Then, we realized that the flavours were well blended, the olives and the cabbage gave nice off-setting textures, and the salad was softer and still looked beautiful.  So, you will have to try it for yourself and tell us about your experience.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

DAY 47: Cousin Nick's Shrimp and Orzo Dish (manestra/μανέστρα)

One day we stopped in to see Cousin Nick and his wife, just for a visit and a friendly hello.  Everyone has a Cousin Nick (or an uncle, or a brother), don't they?  Well, we went to have a visit, and, of course, you walk in for a visit, you are going to stay for a meal.  It is what Greeks do -- they feed people.  So, being the good guests that we are, we sat down to eat.  

Now, usually, we wouldn't expect that we would be able to eat anything when visiting others because not everyone is fasting, nor is everyone fasting the same way.  We are generally following the strict fast (we do use oil for some dishes), whereas we know many people who are doing what they can, but still including some dairy products.  And, even if we were to be guests at a home that offered us something that was animal product, it is not our place to boast about fasting, nor is it right to judge or lecture the other person.  You graciously accept what you are given, have a small quantity so not to offend your host, and keep your mouth shut.  That's the general rule -- just be a good guest and move on.  And, that's what we were prepared to do.

What a nice surprise to find that Cousin Nick and his wife were fasting, but included dairy in their diets to make sure that their son got the nutritional benefits of milk, cheese, and yogurt.  Many parents do this, and children under a certain age are not required to follow the regimen of fasting so they can grow, so we do understand...  I digress.  

So, when we sat down at the table, Cousin Nick brought out a large bowl that was filled to the brim with a lovely mixture of  shrimp, manestra (μανέστρα, orzo), tomatoes, and cheese.  Wow!  Not only did this look delicious, the smell of yumminess just filled the room.  After we all enjoyed a meal together, we had to ask Cousin Nick how he made this dish, so we could duplicate it -- maybe without the cheese for now.  He and his beautiful wife gladly shared with us.

Cousin Nick started to tell us the story of the restaurant (years back it even appeared on a well known American comedy series) that he owned (go figure, a Greek named Nick having a restaurant!) and how he used to tinker around in the kitchen.  One day, he stumbled upon this nice combination of shrimp and feta, and wanted something interesting to put with it.  Orzo (μανέστρα) is the undervalued food here.  It is not used often enough unless you already know about it.  Some people will look at it and think, "What is this -- rice or pasta?"  But, Cousin Nick, like us, grew up eating μανέστρα the way his parents made it, and liked it so much, it was one of his first choices to put in his recipe.

Orzo is pasta.  It is the shape that appears like rice.  It cooks like spaghetti in salted water, it doubles in size when cooking, and will fill you when eating.  It is a pasta, and you use it the same way you would use any other shape of pasta.

Now that we know that orzo is pasta, we can return to our story. 

So, Cousin Nick told us about some of the different things that he tried, and then came upon this combination in front of us.  He even tried selling it at his restaurant, which, he said, went pretty well among the Greeks and Italians -- the ones who already knew orzo.  But, when he sold his restaurant, he took the recipes with him, and now the only time he makes this is when having company at home.  We are thankful to have been company that day!

Let's look at the rest of the recipe.  To make this recipe, which will feed four people, you will need the following:

1 1/2 cups orzo (it will end up being about 4 cups cooked)
1 onion, diced (we used red, but yellow or Spanish is fine, too)
14 oz diced tomatoes (canned or fresh)
1 1/2 cups shrimp, cleaned and peeled
salt, pepper, and oregano to taste
optional: 1 cup feta cheese crumbles (We did not use it this time, although some stores do sell a vegan feta cheese)
water, enough to cook the pasta.

And, the steps are quite simple.  It is a one-pot meal that takes very little time to prepare.  Here are the steps:

First, dice the onion, clean the shrimp, and, if you are using fresh tomatoes, chop the tomatoes -- otherwise, open the can.

Saute the onions in a little oil.  You will cook them until they are soft, but keep the pot on a medium heat so the onions do not get brown.

Next, season the onions with a little salt, pepper, and oregano.  We used about a teaspoon of Greek oregano to start, a pinch of salt and two pinches of pepper.

Then, add the shrimp, which have been cleaned and peeled.
Mix very well so that all the shrimp are coated with the seasonings.  Cook for just a few minutes until the shrimp are fully cooked, pink, and look like you want to eat them right then.

Add the cooked orzo.  Give the contents of the pot a stir so that the orzo is coated with the oil and the seasonings, and you have no lumps or sticky balls of pasta.

Lastly, add the tomatoes.  Use the tomato chunks with the liquid.  If you are using fresh tomatoes, you may need to add a little water to get everything moist in the pot.  

Mix this well and continue to cook it until all of the ingredients are hot and mixed well.  This should be about five minutes.  You can put a lid on it to make the heating process go a little faster, but expect that the orzo and shrimp will absorb some of the liquid, and you may need to add a little more so that nothing sticks in the pan.

If you are going to add feta cheese (we did not, due to Great Lent), now is the time to add that.  Crumble about 3/4 of the feta into the pot and mix well.  The cheese will partly melt and become creamy in the manestra.  Use the remaining bits for the top of the dish as a garnish.

Serve this dish hot with your choice of vegetable.  We served peas (from frozen) because they could be mixed into the dish and add another dimension of texture and flavour.  You choose what veggies you like and have.  

Now that we are mentioning vegetables, you should know that we have made this and added frozen vegetables, or spinach, or even chopped peppers to this meal, and cooked them into the dish while cooking the onions.  Each time we add something different, this becomes a brand new recipe for us.  Some of the best variations we have used have been spinach, red peppers, or crab meat instead of shrimp.  You should choose flavours that blend well with tomatoes, and go with the oregano.  For us, it has been about picking a sweeter protein (shrimp and crab are both sweet seafoods) and a tangy vegetable (something that punches when you bit it).  But, you will find your favourites.  Start with the basic recipe, see if you like it, and then start adding your variations.  That way, you will know what to expect, and what would be a good addition for you.

Cousin Nick is a very good cook.  He really was proud when we told him that we were making this dish regularly at home -- his joy is with good reason!  We are proud of him for creating such a lovely dish that we have been able to use through fasting times and non-fasting times.  And, now that we have tweaked the recipe a little, it has become ours.  So, thank you, Cousin Nick, for sharing!  And, for all of you are going off to make this dish, please drink a toast to Cousin Nick. 

Καλή Όρεξη!

Holy Hierarch Ignaty Brianchaninov† If thou, O man, dost not forgive everyone who has sinned against thee, then do not trouble thyself with fasting. If thou dost not forgive the debt of thy brother, with whom thou art angry for some reason, then thou dost fast in vain God will not accept thee. Fasting will not help thee, until thou wilt become accomplished in love and in the hope of faith. Whoever fasts and becomes angry, and harbors enmity in his heart, such a one hates God and salvation is 
far from him.


Day 46: Harvey's Veggie Burger - vs - Meat Burger

Left: Harvey's Original hamburger. Right: Harvey's Vegetarian burger
Harvey's is a Canadian fast-food chain that offers ease, convenience, and a little personalization of their burgers. In fact, the jingle for the chain "Harvey's Makes A Hamburger A Beautiful Thing", written by ad genius Jerry Goodis  is recognized by pretty well any Canadian you ask.

We chose to go to Harvey's to find out what kind of vegetarian options they offered.  While there, we ordered two different burgers -- a veggie patty and an original beef patty burger.  As you can see, they look very similar, and it is difficult to distinguish which one is which.

We were not sure which one was the veggie burger when we set down the tray.  You can see from teh picture that both burgers look alike.  They have very similar colour, look, and size.  We put identical toppings on the burgers in order to directly compare the two.  Each one has lettuce, tomato, pickle, onion, ketchup, and mustard.

Even when we looked directly at the patties, it was not easy to differentiate between vegetarian and meat patties.  Both have good colour and grill marks.  Can you tell the difference?  

Upon closer examination, the veggie burger (left) has a lighter, more pale, almost orange varying colour to it.  It has the grill marks to make it look more like beef.  The beef burger (right) has the same grill marks, but shows a darker, more uniform, flat colour.  This may be from the fact that both burgers are cooked on the same grill, with no worries about meat contaminating the vegetarian patty.  (We had some concerns, though.) The buns are average white or wheat bread with very little texture or appeal.

When we cut into the burgers, we could clearly see that neither of the burgers had specific texture or grain to them.  Both were uniform in texture and mouth-feel.  We did notice, however, that the veggie burger was a little more smooth than the beef burger, where it felt as if the ingredients had been pureed, for lack of a better description.  This was not appetizing when thinking about eating just the patty without toppings or bun.  A good texture is half the fun of eating something yummy.  The beef patty did not have the grainy texture that we expect when eating ground meat.  That was expected of a fast food burger.

As we began to eat the burgers, we both agreed that Harvey's offers a pleasant, basic burger with very little identifiable flavour, and that eating there becomes all about the toppings that you choose to put.  The condiments we chose really enhanced this burger.  Of course, we could have added mayonnaise, but that is egg-based, and we are avoiding that.  Other choices included barbecue sauce, hot sauce, relish, and hot peppers.  There is also the option of purchasing bacon or cheese (or both) to top your burger.   

We found that the serving size (weight) of these burgers is the same -- the veggie burger is one gram smaller than the beef patty.  And, as expected, the veggie patty has less fat and fewer calories overall than the beef patty does.  We were not surprised with any of that.  What did surprise us, though, is the  was the amount of sodium in each of these -- the beef patty has 980 mg of sodium, whereas the veggie patty has only 580 mg.  Originally, we would have thought this to be the reverse situation, since usually the veggie patty would need the enhancement for flavour.

Overall, this would be a fine choice of veggie burgers when stopping at a fast food restaurant.  There was nothing that made us believe it was a bad burger, and it had a pleasant flavour, good size, and filled us adequately.  For the five dollars we spent to buy the meal (burger, fries and drink) it was absolutely worth it.  We may hold reservations about the two burger patties being cooked on the same grill, though, and would prefer that they were not.  But, we like to believe that all the meat juices are scraped off and burned off before placing a veggie patty on the grill.  The worker at this particular Harvey's did tell us that they scrape their grill regularly, but we don't know how often "regularly" actually is.

Knowing that Harvey's offers a vegetarian burger puts this chain up on the list of acceptable places to eat during Great Lent.  We know there are other choices, but this is often the most accessible.  We were, overall, happy with our experience there and pleased about our selection of the Veggie Patty.  Put on the toppings you like, and enjoy.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Day 45: A Lenten Makaria (Post-Funeral Meal) PART 2

Not all Greek Orthodox funerals have a table pre-set like the one we attended yesterday. The family hails from the northern Greek region of Makedonia, where this custom is prevalent.
Most of us have attended a funeral.  A Greek Orthodox funeral is, in our opinion, one of the most beautiful and complete funeral services.  We follow our traditions at the Church, with the service, the prayers, and the processions.  But also, we follow traditions after the funeral.  This is one of the parts where the Orthodox funeral differs from so many.  

Koliva, cracked whole wheat that has been boiled is thrown on the casket, along with some prosforo. Koliva during memorial services are usually laid out in ornate, beautifully designed platters. The ritual of using Koliva actually predates Christianity in the Greek culture; it has remained part of Orthodox Greek funerals to this day because of the association of Jesus' parable of the sower (Matthew 13:3-8) and the Resurrection of Christ.

Small cups of Metaxa brandy ready to be picked up by the mourners at the site of the burial.

At the burial, the table was set with a variety of Lenten food and Metaxa Greek brandy, a mainstay of all the Makaria lunches we have attended over the years.
A mourner at the burial site holding a plate of prosforo bread, halva, grapes and olives.

Once we have gone to the cemetary, said our last goodbyes, and wished the deceased person a good trip to Heavan, and we offer our prayers for an eternal memory, the family and the funeral attendees all head off to either the Church Hall or a restaurant to have a μακαρία (makaria -- mah-kah-ree-ah) or a Funeral Meal.  Μακαρία is only used for the meal directly following a funeral.  If we are talking about the 40 day or one year memorial, then that meal is called a Mnimosino (μνημόσυνο -- mnee-moh-see-noh).  It is two seperate words that sometimes people try to interchange.  But, they really do refer to different things.

At the makaria there are some things that one should expect.  First, expect that much of the crying will have stopped, and many people will be telling loving, funny stories about the deceased and the family.  Second, expect that there will be someone at your table who eats all of the bread before everyone sits down.  And, lastly, expect that you will have a filling meal that  includes fish, rice, salad, and maybe some beans.  

Now, since we are in a fasting period when no fish is allowed except for the 25th of March (Annunciation of the Virgin Mary) and Palm Sunday (coming on April 8 in 2012), how can you enjoy a fish meal at a makaria?  Well, the good folks of our church found a super solution!  They offered the fish meal, which is traditional and standard, and recognizes that there are many people who have some health issues that would prevent them from fasting completely, or who choose not to fast, or who even decided that because it was a funeral, it must be okay to consume fish.  And, even though there are many of us who are fasting and don't want to eat fish, it was offered in keeping to tradition.  But what do you do about the folks who won't eat the fish?  You could give them just rice and beans.  Or, the church folk offered the alternative meal -- the Lenten seafood rice dish.  This dish had shrimp, mussels, clams, and crab all mixed up with some rice.  But, what recipe did they have?

We had to go to the kitchen to find "The Chef" of the day.  Of course, there were at least ten people in there, all of whom are good cooks -- but whose recipe was it?  Each one told us about the same thing (with a rather strong Greek accent), "You know, it's easy.  Put a little onion, a little domata (tomato), and some rigani (oregano) and alati (salt) with the srimps, and then mix with the rizi (rice)."  This is, essentially, the classic Greek recipe -- onion, tomato, oregano, and salt together with something is a good recipe.

To translate for you, here is what they told us, "Dice some onions."  No amount is given, because it will change depending on how much seafood you are adding.  We figured that to feed a family of four with good sized portions, we would use two medium onions, diced.  "Chop some tomato, but keep all the juices.  Or use a can of diced tomatoes with the liquid because that is easier."  That translated well, didn't it?  "Then, add a little oregano and some salt just to taste.  Don't add too much oregano, though, just a bit -- enough to taste, not enough to overpower the seafood."  And, "Mix all that with the seafood (shrimp, seafood mix, crab meat, clams, mussels, whatever is available in any combination), and serve it with the rice that we have already made in the oven."  You may come up with your own translation, but knowing the folks who gave us the recipe, this is what we believe they meant.

This simple, but delicious, Lenten dish was part of our Church's Makaria meal. The accompanying garden salad, with olives and a simple oil and vinegar dressing is not shown above. The dish above, essentially, consists of Gigantes -see Day 32- (giant lima beans with tomato and vegetables), long grain rice with celery and onions, a bun, lemon wedge - all accompanied by a tasty medley of vegetables (red, yellow, orange peppers, celery) and seafood (shrimp, calamari and mussels).
The rice was good.  At church, the rice is always made with chopped onion, celery, salt and pepper sauteed together, then mixed with the uncooked rice and baked in the oven for about an hour until it is done.  We have made that at home, and we have tried it in our rice cooker -- both ways work well.  It is just nice to have those little bits of vegetables in the rice.

The beans were good, too.  You have to see Day 32 of this blog for the recipe for gigantes.  Everyone makes them differently, and now you can make them, too!  

Lastly, we know that we could mix the seafood blend with some canned tomatoes and dump it on top of rice.  That would be okay, but it wouldn't taste as good as what we had at the Church today.  But, we clearly know that we could follow in the footsteps of the Church cooks and add a little time, a little knowledge, and a lot of love in our food and it WILL be delicious.

Matthew 13:3-8 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
3 And He spoke many things to them in parables, saying, “Behold, the sower went out to sow; 4 and as he sowed, some seeds fell beside the road, and the birds came and ate them up. 5 Others fell on the rocky places, where they did not have much soil; and immediately they sprang up, because they had no depth of soil. 6But when the sun had risen, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. 7 Others fell [a]among the thorns, and the thorns came up and choked them out. 8 And others fell on the good soil and *yielded a crop, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty.


Day 44: A Lenten Makaria (Post-Funeral Meal) PART 1

Sadly, today we attended the funeral of a dear family friend. We were unable to post today's entry but will do so tomorrow.  The subject of this entry will be to describe a typical Lenten Makaria meal (post-funeral meal).

Thank you for your understanding.

Tone 5 of the Greek Orthodox Funeral Service (composed by St. 
John of Damascus)

I Called to mind the Prophet who shouted, "I am but earth and ash." And once again I looked with attention on the tombs, and I saw the bones therein which of flesh were naked; and I said, "Which indeed is he that is king? Or which is soldier? Which is the wealthy, which the needy? Which the righteous, or which the sinner?" But to Your 
servant, O Lord, grant that with the righteous he (she) may repose.

(Source of text: )

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Day 43: Chick Peas on the Side - ΡΕΒΙΘΙΑ

There are some days that you need one more thing on the table to make a complete meal. The difficulty with choosing what side dish to add is deciding how much time you have to make it.  Today, we are giving you a family recipe that is easy, quick (less than 10 minutes) and practical to add a side dish with protein, vitamins, and flavour.  This is a dish that husband's side of the family makes, of course with some variation, but it is made in a pinch, in a hurry, and with ease.

Revithia (ρεβίθια)-- chick peas are packed with protein.  We eat them in so many different forms, and I imagine that most households have a can or two in the pantry.  With canned beans, so many things are possible!  This is another item to add to the list of choices.  There is not a specific name for this dish -- we just call it revithia.  If you don't have one or another of the ingredients, that's okay, there are several variations.

For this recipe, you will need the following:

1 can Chick Peas (19 oz. or 540 mL)
olive oil (of course)
1 medium onion, chopped
4-5 cloves garlic, chopped
salt and pepper (to taste)
2/3 of a cup of tomato juice (or tomato sauce or tomato paste or V-8 -- all are optional)
a little water (amounts vary each time you make the dish)

Start with draining the chick peas from the can.  Many people do not rinse the beans after draining the water, but we find that the liquid is a bit salty for our liking.  Yes, we are adding salt to the recipe, but the salty preserving liquid in the can is more potent than adding salt to the recipe.  So, we rinse well before using these beans.

Next, make sure all your ingredients are ready to go -- your onions should be chopped (small dice) and the garlic chopped fine.  

Heat some olive oil in a pan on medium-high heat.  Although, in husband's family, they will call it a "κατσαρόλα," so use that.  Heat the olive oil in a katsarola until it smells and fills the house with that olive scent.  That's how we know it is ready for cooking!

Next, put the onions and garlic in the κατσαρόλα and cook them until they are soft and translucent.  They may get a little golden in colour, but that's okay, just turn down the heat.  You want to make sure that they do not stick to the bottom of the pan, so stir or shake the pan so nothing burns.

If you notice the onions or garlic sticking to the bottom of the κατσαρόλα, then pour a little water in there and loosen the golden bits off the bottom of the pan.

Next, add the salt and pepper, then the chick peas (ρεβίθια).  And, while you are there, add the tomato juice.  This is the variation step -- you can add tomato juice.  If you don't have that, then use whatever tomato sauce or spaghetti sauce you have in the fridge.  Or, use tomato paste.  If none of these are open or you don't have tomato product, then just use water.  Either way, it should be enough liquid to just touch the top of the amount of chick peas.  The ρεβίθια should not be fully submerged!  Add salt and pepper to your liking (we usually put a couple of pinches of each).

Mix this up really well, and lower the heat on the stove.  The temperature should be about medium and then you can walk away for a few minutes.  Let the pan (the ρεβίθια) go for about 5 or 6 minutes, while everything simmers.  Then, serve. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper to taste on your own plate.  It's really a lovely little side dish.  And, we know that you could serve it as a main dish with some rice and a vegetable or salad, too.  It is filling, healthy, and quick.  Taking ten to fifteen minutes to make a dish is not a lot of time, but the end result is absolutely worth it!

Now that you have learned yet another family recipe, tell us what you think.  Tell us about one of your family gems, like this one, or if you have a different, easy way to make these.  It's a nice protein dish that is good for any time of day - some families eat things like this for breakfast!  We enjoy this dish year-round, and find that everyone needs a five minute side dish in their repertoire.

A Note:
One variation that we mentioned above is the following:
Instead of adding any of the tomato products, use only the little bit of water and then squeeze some lemon juice into the pan.  Adjust the amount of lemon to your individual taste.  The little bit of water will keep the dish moist, and the lemon adds a nice flavour.  Another choice would be to add a little pesto sauce (without the cheese for fasting times).  A pesto (basil, garlic, and Parmesan cheese) sauce adds a nice twist to this already interesting dish, and makes for a beautiful colour.  We have used red pesto and green pesto for variety.  Any way you make it, enjoy!

Lenten Prayer of St. Ephraim the Syrian

Lord and Master of my life, deliver me from the spirit of laziness, meddling, ambition and gossip. Give me, Your servant, the spirit of prudence, humility, patience and love. Lord and King, grant that I may see my sins and faults and not judge my brother, for You are blessed forever and ever. Amen.

Taken directly from