Saturday, 14 March 2015

Day 21: March 14, 2015: Lupina Beans - Αλατισμένα Λούπινα

Lupini beans are part of the pea family.  They are eaten like a snack.  Members of our family had this as the only protein on the table during many a day during the "Katohi" (the Nazi occupation during World War 2).  Now, lupine beans (or "lupina" in Greek) are eaten any time as a crunchy, salty and very nutritious snack; they are available all year, since they are often found preserved in a brine solution, like an olive or a salty pickle would be.  They do not taste like pickles, but it seems that they are a tasty treat!

Unusual for a legume, lupina have no starch, are about 40% protein and a nutritionally rich food. Caution is advised for anyone wanting to consume bitter lupine (commonly used as livestock fodder) which have not been processed properly as alkaloid poisoning can occur. Also, in the European Union, it is required to indicate lupini beans on the label of food as there is some concern for cross-peanut allergy similarities (the lupini beans are related to the peanut).

We hope we haven't scared you with this point; tens of millions of people eat this delicious snack; if you have a legume allergy or a peanut allergy specifically, please don't eat lupine! For all other readers, please read on!

Lupini beans are referred to as Lupina (Λούπινα, lupino is the singular and lupina is the plural form) in Greek.  They are a neat little snack pod that can be left at room temperature because of the high salt content.  If you look at the label's ingredients list (above), you can see that the beans, water, and salt are the main ingredients.  The citric acid is a preservative to keep the food fresh in the jar.  Citric acid can be used to add or provide a sour flavour, but these beans are not sour, so the citric acid appears to be only a preservative.

Please note that once the container (jar or shrink-wrapped plastic bag) is opened, the lupina need to be refrigerated as they can become mouldy within a couple of days on the counter.

When we eat Lupina, we wash off the brining liquid (salt water).  We do that for the fact that it is too salty, and by rinsing the beans, we can appreciate the bean itself.  They have a thick skin around the bean that needs to be peeled off (mind you, husband, as well as many people I know, like munching on the skin as well.  The skin is where most of the saltiness is held, and once that skin is peeled away, the mild, not salty legume is left.

We started by opening the jar, and taking some of the Lupina out of the brine.  They are yellowish, and look like very flat, roundish legumes. Some of the beans will have popped out of their skins, and that's okay because we have to peel them to eat anyway.

There are two different ways to rinse away the brine solution.  Your first choice is that you can rinse the Lupina under cool water.  Running water  is fine if you have a small amount and you know the water will reach all the beans.  If you are rinsing a larger quantity, and you want to make sure the beans will be edible and not overly salty, then it may be best to put them in a bowl full of fresh cool water, and allowing the lupina to sit in clear water for about 30 minutes.  This will make sure to remove much of the saltiness from the beans.

Once the lupina have been rinsed and drained of any rinsing water, it is time to pop open these little treasures and try one (or several) for yourself.  The best way to do this is to pick up one bean and give it a squeeze.  The bean will shoot out of the skin, and likely will zip across the room.  If you are a little talented, you can squeeze the skin directly pointing into your mouth, and catch the bean as it pops out.

Another choice is to make a small cut in the skin, and then pull out the bean from its wrapping.  Similar to peeling a banana, it is a slower method of cleaning the beans, but does not lead to Lupina all over the floor!

Discard the skins.  They are edible but many people I know don't eat them , as they can be extremely salty.  You can enjoy these as a snack, as part of breakfast, or as a protein pick me up in the middle of the day.  They are a great social snack to have with friends, and are appropriate any time of year, fasting and non-fasting periods alike.  If we get really adventurous, we may try to make some other dish with Lupina, but, for now, they are a lovely snack just as they are.

First crack the outer skin to create an opening...
The inside part of the lupino bean needs a bit of a squeeze to come out.
Not everyone separates the outer skin from the inside bean. Some eat the entire lupina beans one at a time - whole!

“To ease another’s heartache is to forget one’s own.” 

Friday, 13 March 2015

Day 20: March 13, 2015: Fast and Easy Marinated Baby Octopus with Green Olives and Pepperocini - Γρήγορο και Εύκολο Μικρό Χταποδάκι Ξυδάτο με Πράσινες Ελιές και Πράσινες Πιπεριές

The final product, created from start to finish in under 15 minutes. Nutritious, delicious, inexpensive and very easy to make. 
We have marinated a variety of foods including calamari, seafood mix, and octopus. But, with 25 days of fasting left, we needed this staple food to be easier to make. This recipe is inspired by something that we saw at the fish monger.

We go shopping at the fish monger to see what kind of new products arrive from Greece, to get inspired with something new to make, and to purchase various seafood items that we are allowed to have right now. We go there other times of year, too, but it just happens that it is now Great Lent and we shopped at the fish monger.

We like to look at the variety of products in the store. At this particular market, there is an entire section dedicated to products made in-house. We can just imagine the Yiayiades in the back kitchen making the seafood salads and the taramasalata! But, this was really the inspiration.

We were looking at the salads, wondering if there was something there that we would like to change our variety of seafood salads that we make regularly. We came upon a small container, 10 ounces, that had baby octopus, olives, hot peppers, and some carrots. As we read the ingredients, the list seems like one we would have created with oil, vinegar, lemon, olives, pepperoncini, and carrots. We have talked about using Italian salad dressing as the marinade for seafood, and about using lemon instead of vinegar. Ad, when we looked more closely, we saw that the fish monger had used mostly oil, with a small amount of vinegar resting on the bottom of the container.

Well, this 10-ounce package seemed to be everything we were thinking about. We stopped ourselves from buying this small container because for 10 ounces, the store was asking *$8.99, and we thought that was pricey for what we were getting.

That day, we bought the baby octopus, frozen in small packages. We bought two packages -- one to use now, and one to keep int he freezer for next time. These packages were on sale at a price of 2 for $6.00 (or something), which seemed cheaper than $9 for 10 ounces (about 300 g).

So, could we replicate the expensive baby octopus salad? We think we did. With a little creativity, and a little research, we found that copying the fish monger was surprisingly easy.

For this recipe, you will need the following:

1 10-ounce package baby octopus (approximately 300 g)
5-6 olives, pitted and chopped
3 pimentos (pickled pepper strips)
2-5 hot peppers
1-2 TBSP shredded carrots (optional)
Brine from the olives
dried oregano, as needed
salt, as needed
oil, as needed
red wine vinegar, as needed

As we have in the past, we are going to cook the baby octopus.  These packages where the baby octopus are all frozen together into a block are easy to use, but not always easy to cook.  Sometimes it helps to beak the brick in half and to cook it in two chunks.  To cook the octopus, boil some water.  Drop the octopus into the boiling water.  Be careful not to splash when dropping the octopus.  Boil the octopus for 5 minutes, uncovered.  The octopus will turn a deep purple/brown colour, and the water will too.  After 5 minutes, drain the water off the octopus, and rinse them in cool water.  The purple/brown skin may start to flake off, and that is fine.  It may be something that you want to rub off all together, just for appearances.  It is your choice.  We left ours as they were, purple skin and all, right out of the pot.

Make sure the octopus has been cleaned.  If need be, cut the head and remove the eye of the octopus.  It is hard and will ruin the end result of your final salad.

Then, cut the octopus into bite sized pieces.  You may choose to leave baby octopus in its whole form, which gives a lovely presentation.  Or, if you cut the octopus, make the pieces bite sized.

Once all the pieces are cut, sprinkle some salt over all the octopus.  We used about 1 teaspoon of salt for the 10 ounces of octopus.  This seems like a good guideline.  Of course, it is adjustable based on you taste for salt.

Then, add two pinches of oregano.  Depending on how much you like oregano, yo may want to add more or less.  Two pinches seemed like enough to taste, but not enough to take over the flavour.

Now, it is time to add about two teaspoons of brine from the olives, the oil, and the vinegar.  Add enough liquid to cover the octopus, but not enough that the octopus is swimming in the oil and vinegar. 

Now, it is time to add the olives, pimento, carrots, and hot peppers.  By using the existing mix of olives and peppers, we saved a lot of chopping of different vegetables.  This is a super easy way to enhance the salad if you don't have a lot of produce on hand.

Mix all the ingredients together.  If you have the time, allow the salad to marinade for a minimum of 3 hours.  If you do not have the time to do that, serve the salad with a  squirt of lemon juice and some crusty bread for a meal or an appetizer.  Then write to us and tell us how it turned out.

"Prayer is the seed of gentleness and the absence of anger."

(From the book The Sayings Of The Desert Fathers, pg. 153)

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Day 19: March 12, 2015 - Prasorizo - Rice with Leeks - Πρασόριζο (Ρίζι με Πράσα)

Can you believe it? We are already 13 days into Great Lent!

We make rice about once a week, and earlier this week, we made rice with leeks.  Prasorizo  (rice with leeks) is a dish that reminds us of Spanikorizo (spinach rice), but it is a lighter dish.  Leeks have been part of Greek food forever, and we use them regularly in different types of foods.  Braised Leeks are a dish that we make on occasion, because that is a dish that really highlights the gentle flavour that leeks have.  Prasorizo is a dish just like that -- one that highlights the lovely flavour of the leeks.

For this recipe, you will need the following:

2 leeks
2 cups water
1/2 cup oil
1 1/4 cup of long grain rice
1 1/2 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 bunch dill (fronds only)
1 lemon, for the juice

Leeks are used often in traditional Greek cooking.  The subtle flavour and the beautiful white colour they bring to a dish is appealing in any savoury creation.  But, you have to know something about leeks when working with them.  Leeks are onions.  They grow in long, white and green stalks.  But, there are many layers and different sections for cooking.

The bottom roots should be discarded.  The top green part is partly usable.  The darker the green colour, the less edible that part of the leek is.  The white part, which is most of a leek, is the part with the gentle onion fragrance and flavour.  That is the part you want to use.  So, we trimmed the top, trimmed the bottom, and sliced the middle.

Wash the leek well after cutting it.  The dirt and sand and bugs will rest in between the layers.  The best way to rid the leeks of these things is to open it and make sure water runs in between each layer of the vegetable.  If you first cut them into whatever shape you are using, this process of cleaning the leek is much easier and more effective.

After the leeks are washed and cleaned, put them in a pot with 2 cups of water and half the oil (1/4 cup).  Bring this mixture to a boil.  Once the water is boiling, lower the heat to a simmer, and allow this mixture to simmer for one hour.  It sounds like a long time, but in this process, the leeks are slowly cooked, releasing flavours into the water and the oil that will carry through the rice.  The water will mostly cook off, and the leeks will need some liquid again before adding the rice.

Add 1 1/2 cups water to the cooked leeks, and bring it to a boil again.  As soon as the water is boiling, add the rice and the salt.  Now, we are going to cook this like a traditional rice by making sure the liquid is boiling, then, turn down the heat to simmer, put a lid on the pot, and allow the rice to cook for about 20 minutes.  There will still be water in the pot, and you need that for the next two steps.

Once the rice has cooked for about 20 minutes and the grains are mostly soft, add the chopped dill to the pot.  This will absorb some of the liquid that is in the pot, and will impart its flavour to the rice.  Mix the dill well with the other ingredients.

Once this is all mixed together, put the lid back on the pot, and allow it to sit until all the liquid is absorbed.  For us, leaving the pot on the electric stove element, this took 12 minutes.  The time for the liquid to be fully absorbed will vary, but you do not have to turn the heat back on -- even on a gas stove.  There is plenty of heat in the water to cook the rice the rest of the way.

After the water is absorbed, adjust the seasonings.  You may  need to add a little more salt.  Put the rice in a serving dish, and squeeze a lemon all over the rice.  You may like a little less tanginess from lemon juice, or you may like a little more.  Squeeze enough lemon to  your liking, and serve the prassorizo.  It should be warm and a little juicy and delicious.  Or, at least that's how we would describe it.

"Whoever sees in himself the traces of hatred toward any man on account of any kind of sin is completely foreign to the love of God. For love toward God does not at all tolerate hatred for man."

(St. Maximos the Confessor, Chapters on Love, 1.15)

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Day 18: March 11, 2015: Vegan Options at Five Guys Restaurant Chain? - Νηστίσιμες Επιλογές στα εστιατόρια Five Guys;

Five Guys Burger and Fries

The other day, we went out to run some errands. This is not an unusual event -- not for anyone.  What was unusual about the day was how the time got away from us.  We went out in the morning, expecting to be away from home for about two hours.  But, once we were out in the stores, the crowds, and the traffic in between each stop… the daylight disappeared.  Before anyone knew it, it was late afternoon, and we had not stopped for nourishment all day.  So, we looked around the plaza where we were, and we decided to go someplace near.  We ended up walking across the parking lot to go to Five Guys Burgers and Fries.

We chose Five Guys for a few reasons.  First, we love the french fries there.  And, since we know they are fried in peanut oil (see, there is no challenge of animal fat in the fries, so we knew they were fine for fasting (oil allowed).  Oh, and the Cajun seasoning is delightful, too… OK, back to the topic.  We went into the restaurant discussing some possible menu choices.  This is not the first time we had been there, so we are somewhat familiar with their offerings.  As we were reading the menu board, we wondered what choices we had for our Lenten restrictions.  Five Guys does offer a grilled cheese sandwich for the vegetarian, but we cannot have the cheese, so are we having a grilled sandwich (bread, basically) with a variety of toppings?  This is when we started to ask the questions and find out, "Is there anything on the Five Guys menu that is appropriate for Great Lent?"  Here is what we found:

Five Guys offers a Veggie Sandwich that has grilled onions, grilled mushrooms, green peppers, lettuce, and tomato for $3.19 (price in Toronto, Ontario, prices may vary). You can add cheese to that for another $0.80, but we are not eating cheese right now.  But these toppings made us feel like we were eating a hamburger without the beef, and that would be very satisfying.  So, we stuck to the Veggie Sandwich without cheese.  We also ordered fries and a drink.  A large fries for two of us to share seemed completely adequate, even at $4.99.  The french fries at Five Guys are delicious.  For one of us, these are her favourite french fries! (sorry McDonald's!)  The fries are plentiful, crispy, just salted enough.  And, the drink washes it all down.

Free Toppings
An image from 5 Guys' corporate website showing the topic options that are available.
One of the gimmicks that Five Guys offers is free peanuts while you wait.  On the doors going into the restaurant, there are several allergy warning signs about the peanuts and peanut oils.  On the Five Guys website, they list other allergens (click here) including soy, milk, and eggs.  We had not even thought about the milk and eggs in the bun until we sat down to write this entry.  Now, feeling a little guilty, we wondered what else we missed.  Regardless, while we waited for our order, we snacked on the peanuts.  The nuts are a nice snack while waiting for your order, but they do not make up for a meal.  They are a snack only (and a free one at that!), so we enjoyed a few.  Peanuts are interesting because they have a variety of shapes and sizes, and some are saltier than others.  The down side is that you want more, and you have to really focus to say, "No more!" to yourself.

Our order was finally ready, and we decided to disassemble the sandwich to see what our $3.19 (plus tax) really got us.  We got a very soft and mushy bun, which later we learned had milk and egg in it.  Now, we are reminded to make our own bread or read the labels very carefully.  On this bun, two thin slices of tomato, about 1 Tablespoon each of raw onions, lettuce, mustard, and ketchup (which may have contributed to the squishiness of the bun), two thin slices of green peppers, about 1 Tablespoon of grilled mushrooms, and maybe 1 teaspoon of grilled onions.  One of the advertised toppings was green peppers, and we received two slivers? Hmm.  We were not so impressed with this sandwich.  Good thing there were peanuts to eat.

The veggie sandwich

The veggie sandwich assembled by Five Guys staff.
The deconstructed veggie sandwich and its components.
The french fries were still good.  They are usually good.  Eating the french fries makes us very happy.  But, after reading that the bun had milk and eggs in it, we felt horrible.  We called the Five Guys restaurant near home and asked, "Do you use a separate grill for the grilled onions and mushrooms on your vegetable sandwich?"  The man at the store answered, "No, it is all on one grill." When we continued to ask, "Do you have a separate batch for vegetarians, that is done before any meat touches the clean grill?"  The man on the phone answered, "No, we put everything together on the one grill.  We try to scrape it clean in between orders, but sometimes it's too busy.  Anything else?"  This was our chance to speak freely to tell him, "I wish you had that advertised -- that you cook everything on the meat grill.  For a Vegetarian or a Vegan, this is totally not cool.  Maybe you should put up a notice for those of us who do not eat animals."  And, the man at the store answered, "Yeah, I guess so."

Now what?  We totally destroyed fasting without being knowledgeable about what we were eating.  We thought that we were making a safe choice, but we learned otherwise.  However, by writing this and sharing our experience, we hope to save you the trouble of going to Five Guys Burgers and Fries thinking that you will be enjoying a (vegan) vegetable sandwich -- you will not.  As long as the grilled onions and grilled mushrooms are cooked on the same flattop grill as the burgers, they will never be clean and free of animal product.  Even if they were, the buns are out of the questions, too, so we are left with just french fries and a drink.  That's okay, we really like their fries.  But, this is not the place to have a meal during the periods of fasting.  This has taught us, though, that as Orthodox Christians, we need to be more diligent in our practices and perhaps do a little research before eating out.

"Whoever does not fight the one who despises him, neither in word not in thought, has received true knowledge and demonstrates a firm trust in God." 
(St. Mark the Ascetic, Homilies, 2.119)

Source of quote:

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Day 17: March 10, 2015 - Lenten Calamari with Red Wine Sauce - Νηστίσιμο Καλαμαράκια με Σάλτσα Κόκκινου Κρασιού

By now, you would have noticed that we love to discuss (and eat) foods kokkinisto (with a red sauce).  Typically that refers to a tomato sauce, but today, we made squid with red wine sauce.  Does that count as almost kokkinisto?

Wine is a common ingredient in cooking.  There are some wines that are better for cooking than others. We tend to use whatever we have open at the time, but realise that sometimes that is not the best choice.  For this recipe, however, we prefer a drier type of wine.

For this recipe, you will need the following:

2 pounds (about 900 g) cleaned Squid (Calamari)
2 onions
2 bay leaves
5 whole cloves
2 cups dry red wine
1/3 cup oil
1/3 cup malt vinegar
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Start by making sure that the squid is cleaned well and all the hard pieces have been removed.  In a sauce pan, put the squid, onions, bay leaves and cloves.  Cover the pot and allow this to simmer on low heat for 10 minutes.

Next, add the wine, oil, and vinegar to the pot.  Make sure it is well mixed.  Cover the pot and let this cook at medium - low heat for another 15 minutes.  You will smell the wine and the vinegar and want to taste, but there is more to do!  Now, you have to leave the pot uncovered at medium heat and cook until the liquids reduce by about half.  This is the time that you remove the cloves and bay leaves.  Pull them out of the liquid and discard them.  It is not easy to find the cloves, but make sure you do.  Nobody likes to bite into a whole clove hiding in a dish!

Now, cover the pot again, turn the heat to medium low, and allow this to cook for 1 hour.   You will see that the squid is pink in colour from cooking, but it gets a nice glowing pink from the red wine.  Allow this to cook for the hour, and you will know that the calamari is becoming especially tender in the pot.  This is your chance to make the rice or noodles that you will serve with this dish.  You want something that will catch some of the sauce from the calamari.

After an hour has passed, much of the liquid will be cooked away in the pot, but you have enough to dress each serving!  You can remove the calamari from the pot, and pour whatever sauce is left over top.  You may see some pieces of onions still, which makes a nice garnish on top of the calamari.  And, you can then arrange the calamari with the onions.  Before serving this, sprinkle some ground black pepper on top, whether it is already ground or you use a pepper mill, add a splash of pepper on top to serve, and enjoy!

"They asked an elder, "What is humility?" The elder said, "When your brother sins against you, and you forgive him, before he repents before you.""

(Ancient Patericon, 15.74)