Saturday, 2 April 2016

Day 20: April 2, 2016 - Lenten Spaghetti with Tarama - Νηστίσιμο Σπαγγέτι με Ταραμά - (originally posted on March 21, 2015)

(This post was originally published on March 21, 2015).

By now, you may know how much we enjoy the recipes of Diane Kochilas.  We read through her cookbooks to get ideas, to verify how to make something, or to find new dishes to make. Having owned Diane's books since the 1980's, we particularly appreciate her references to the Ikarian diet, given that members of our own family also share an Ikarian background. Her latest book on Ikaria and the Ikarian diet is an excellent book that all readers should get their hands on.

Recently, we found that she had an easy version of Linguine with Poor Man's Caviar (a.k.a. tarama); we recognize, however, that she gives credit for this recipe to local Scarborough (Toronto, Canada) legend Peter Minakis (  And, although we did not have linguine noodles on hand, we did have spaghetti , which is just a thinner noodle, so we knew it would work.

We like easy recipes with few ingredients.  Who doesn't?  We had read other recipes for the same dish, but those recipes had many ingredients, many of which we did not have on hand.  And, when you want to make dinner that is quick and uses the items you have on hand in the pantry or the fridge.  That was the other appealing part about using Kochilas' recipes.  This took about 20 minutes to complete from start to finish, which means less than 30 minutes from the time we got home from work to the time dinner was served.  Now, spaghetti with tarama is on the list of dishes to make for company.

As  you read the ingredients list, you will see that one of the ingredients is Bukovo, which is the Greek term for red pepper flakes.  In our house, this is a staple that goes with many meals.  We use the red pepper flakes, various hot sauces, tabascos, and dried chiles for different dishes.  But, we are aware that we are a little different that way, and not everybody likes spicy foods.  We do, so we thought that this time, we would add just a little more zing to the dish, and we used a red pepper pasta.  It is made with pepperoncini peppers, so the strands of pasta have a nice little bite.  Since the spiciness would be in the pasta, we were able to use the Bukovo for garnish, or as needed per individual.  There are a variety of pasta types and flavours to use, you just have to pick out what you like.

For this recipe, you will need the following:

1 pound of spaghetti (we used a spicy (3% hot pepper) Divella spaghetti) or linguine (about 500 g)
6 TBSP oil
1 medium onion, chopped (can use spring onions, scallions, red onions, or white)
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 cup glanced sliced almonds
6 TBSP tarama (not taramosalata) (see our entry from March 1, 2012)
1 lemon, zest and juice
1 teaspoon Bukovo (red pepper flakes) to taste
salt and pepper to taste

In one pot, boil the salted water and cook the pasta.  Cook the noodles long enough to your liking.  We prefer when noodles have a little bite (al dente), and others prefer very soft noodles.  When the pasta is done, drain most of the water, leaving about 4 TBSP in the pan with the noodles.  Let that pan sit while you cook the topping/sauce.

Here we are toasting the slivered almonds

In a dry sauté pan, toast the almonds.  Do not add oil; the nuts have their own that will help the browning process.  Toast the almonds long enough that they become a beautiful golden colour.  The almonds will brown quickly, so you have to keep moving them around the pan.  This will take about 4 minutes in total.  Our almonds were a little crushed, so the small crumbles of almond browned a little more than expected.  We did not mind, because they tasted delicious, even if they looked a little burnt.

Now, in another pan, sauté the onions and the garlic until the onions are soft.  They should not turn brown, merely translucent.  Once the onions are soft (about 5 minutes), it is time to add the other ingredients.  Add the tarama, almonds, lemon zest, and a bit of bukovo.  You may want a little more bukovo, if you want a spicier dish.  Mix this together until the ingredients are well combined.

Let the onion/tarama mixture heat through, mixed well, and then, it is time to add it to the pasta.  Pour the contents of this pan into the spaghetti pot, and mix well.  You will notice that the little bit of water that was in the spaghetti will help mix the sauce/topping all around.  Mix everything together enough to get all of the noodles coated.  Then, squeeze the lemon over the spaghetti.  This will brighten and freshen the flavour of the sauce/topping.

Serve immediately while it is warm and fresh, and enjoy!

This should take most people less than 30 minutes to prepare.  We would love to know how your dish turned out.  We especially enjoyed the different textures in the dish, from the soft onion, to the crunch of the almonds.  Husband found the layers of flavour very complex.  There was a slight bitterness from the lemon zest, a slight bite from the bukovo, and the tarama was creamy and a little salty. All of the flavours and textures together made this a great meal.  For us, this is a winning recipe not only for the ease, but also for the taste. Thanks to Peter Minakis for the original recipe and Diane Kochilas for the modified, simpler version. Our own modification of using slightly spicy spaghetti made, in our opinion, for a more piquant version that all in our own family enjoyed tonight!

A man will know his brotherly love and his genuine charity when he sees that he mourns for his brother’s sins, and rejoices at his progress and graces.

St. John of Climacus (From the Ladder of Divine Ascent, Step 4, Section 47)
Source of quote: 

Friday, 1 April 2016

Day 19: April 1, 2016 - Delicious Sweet Sesame Pita from Vefa's Book - Σουσαμόπιτα από το βιβλίο της Βέφας - (originally posted on April 11, 2014)

(This post was originally published on April 11, 2014; we have had such good feedback about this recipe that we decided to re-post it today).

Sesame pita?  Sure, why not?  We believe that we could put any sweet item in phyllo, bake it and coat it with syrup and it would be tasty.  Actually, you could put any savoury food in phyllo dough and bake it and it would be tasty.  But sesame falls between the two categories of sweet and savoury.  Do you put it with syrup or make it savoury with something else like cheese?  When we saw that sesame became a sweet, we became curiously excited.  What reassured us that this recipe was going to be good is that it was taken from one of our main cookbooks, Vefa's Kitchen.  We rely on the same five or six cookbooks through the duration of Great Lent, knowing that whatever we make out of these books will typically turn out pretty well, will be tasty, and will be fasting appropriate.  Of course, there are other resources from where we get our recipes, and we spend a lot of time reading!  There is this one blog we especially like … it's called Great Lent Gourmet… (hee hee hee). Another blog we really love to read very often is

For this recipe, you will need the following ingredients:

1 package Phyllo sheets
Oil or pan spray for in between the sheets of phyllo

Filling: 2 1/4 cups sesame seeds
            1 cup sugar
            1 tsp cinnamon
            1 tsp ground cloves

For the syrup:  (We would like to note that we had some syrup from making another sweet from three days ago, and we used that syrup for this recipe.  If you have any leftover syrup, please consider using that, provided it has no super-strong flavours to alter the taste of the sesame pie)

     5 cups sugar
     1 cinnamon stick
     2 teaspoons lemon juice
     3 cups water

Start by making the syrup, if you don't have any.  It will take about 45 minutes to simmer on the stove, so that can simmer while you make the filling and assemble the pita. Mix all the ingredients for the syrup in a small pot and let it simmer on a medium low heat for 45 minutes.  It should get slightly thicker and will turn a light golden colour.  Allow this to continue to simmer on low heat until you are ready to use it.  We heated our syrup in a pan and left it on low heat for the duration of making the pita.

Most recipes that call for a syrup on top of a food ask for one item to be hot and the other to be cold -- usually it is a hot food and a cold syrup.  But, this recipe is a little different where both parts have to be hot.  That is so the pie does not absorb too much syrup, and the syrup stays thin enough to coat the entire pie.

Now that the syrup is simmering, it is time to make the filling.  You will need a food processor for this.

First, grind the sesame seeds to a fine powder, almost a paste.  It will be a rough paste, not like tahini which is smooth and thick, you want less smooth than that.  To the sesame seeds, add the sugar, cinnamon, and cloves.  Blend this together until the mixture is well combined and becomes a little cohesive.

Now, prepare the phyllo sheets.  On the countertop, lay out one sheet of the phyllo dough and coat it with oil.  You can use a pastry brush to "paint" the oil onto the phyllo, or you can use a vegetable oil based pan spray (like we did).  Coat the entire sheet of phyllo.

Lay the second layer of phyllo on top of the first.  Make sure the corners line up and are as flush as possible.  You want the two sheets to look like one -- one thick sheet.  You will do this one more time and total three sheets of phyllo.  Make sure the third layer is fully coated with the oil or the pan spray.

Take the filling that you made and lay out one row of filling along the long side of the sheet of phyllo.  You are going to roll this into a cigar-shaped log, so make a thin row of the filling.  You can use your hands or fingers to try to straighten the filling, but you will also do that with the phyllo, so do not overthink this.

Now, it is time to roll the log.

First, make sure the filling is tightly wrapped in that first inch of phyllo.  If you overlap the edge of the phyllo on top of the filling, and tuck in the edge under the filling, and pull the phyllo roll back toward you, you will get a snug cigar shape.  Then, you can roll the rest of the way.  Now, watching carefully so that you keep the log straight and even, start to roll the phyllo into a long cylinder.  About half way through the rolling, pinch the edges closed so that the filling does not ooze out while the log bakes.  This is especially important for softer or juicier fillings.

Once you have the entire cylinder rolled, it is time to twist this log into a spiral shape.  Although we were not greatly successful with this step, our spirals looked acceptable.  Hold the one end of the log, and pick up the other end.  Carry the second end around the first and go round and round until you run out of log.  It should look like a spiral.

Brush the top of the spiral with oil (or spray it) and set it on a paper lined or greased cookie sheet.  We used the silicone baking mat as we usually do.  As long as there is something between the bottom phyllo and the actual metal of the cookie sheet, you will be fine.  Phyllo is rather forgiving that way.  It is not forgiving, however, when rolling the spirals.  You can see in our photograph that the phyllo cracked.  We think that is because the phyllo was a little cold, as was the kitchen, so the dough was not as pliable as when it is actually room temperature.

Notice the crack in our spiral. Nevertheless, the final product turned out really well!

Bake the spirals for about 45 minutes at 350º F (175º C).  You want them to be golden brown and firm.  The spirals should move freely on the baking sheet.

Now for the fun part!  Take that hot pita spiral and put it in the hot syrup.  Make sure that the syrup should be at a medium low heat so that the syrup is hot.  The pita just came out of the oven so we know that is hot, too.  Ours is a little dark in colour, but it was hot out of the oven!  

Fully submerge the pita in the syrup and hold it down for about 45 seconds.  This gives ample time for the syrup to sink into the sesame filling and through the middle of the spiral.

Allow the excess syrup to drip off the pita, and set it back on the cookie sheet and allow it to cool.  If it looks dry, spoon some more syrup on top of the pita.  You want it wet, but not soaked.  The spiral should shine and drip a little without being gooey.  

To serve these, either serve them as entire spirals, which would be great if they were small; alternatively, you can cut each spiral into smaller pieces and serve as bite-sized bits.  We chose the bite sized bits.  And, sometimes one bite is all you really want or need.

"No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son as Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him. Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. We love Him because He first loved us."

1 John 4:12-19

Source of quote:

Thursday, 31 March 2016

Day 18: March 31, 2016 - Roasted Beet Stems and Beet Greens - Part 2 - Ψητά Παντζάρια - Μέρος 2

Roasting beets sounds like something that would take a long time to make.  Roasting, in general, is a slow process that seals in flavours and juices.  But, does it always take a long time?  No, it doesn't.  Especially if you are making something like the roasted beets.  They can go into the oven alongside of anything else that you are making.  For us, we did cook the beets by themselves, because serving them with some taramasalata and some rice constitutes a whole meal, therefore we had nothing else in the oven.  That's fine.  The beets are worth it all alone.  You can do so many things with the beets once they are roasted, or you can enjoy them as they are.

Yesterday, we cleaned up the beets and separated the beetroot from the beet greens.  Today, we are focusing on the beetroot, which we will refer to as beets.  That is the common term for them, anyway, but we like the word beetroot, too.  For this recipe, beets refers to beetroot.

For this recipe, you will need the following:

1 tsp - 1TBSP oil
Salt, to taste
Ground Ginger, to taste
Crushed Red Pepper flakes, to taste
Aluminum Foil

Finish the Beets with the following:

a little red wine vinegar (to taste)
a little orange juice (to taste)
and a zest of orange to garnish

Since we started by separating the beetroots from the beet greens, we are working only with the beet roots today.  Trim off the tail ends, and discard the tails.  You also want to trim the top where the greens were connected, and make sure that all signs of the beet greens have been removed.  Then, as we mentioned above, wash the beets well, scrubbing off as much dirt and dust as you possibly can.  This will make for a shiny vegetable.

Place the beet cut side down into a square of aluminum foil -- the size and shape will vary depending on the size of your beets.  With our two really big beets, we needed longer sheets of aluminum to make sure the foil would cover the entire vegetable.

Once the beets are placed in the foil, drizzle a bit of oil over the whole beet.  You want it to run down the sides and land in the aluminum foil.

Sprinkle a bit of salt over the beet.  Some folks will choose to eliminate the salt from this recipe, but it really does enhance the sweetness and draws the moisture from the centre to the edges to keep the whole vegetable nice and juicy.  Remember, the salt is on the skin and we will be peeling away the skin after cooking.

Sprinkle a bit of ginger over the beets.  The ginger will end up being very light in the overall flavour, but somehow, that sweet spice will permeate the skin and get into the centre, and you ail leave a lingering yumminess from the ginger.  Ground ginger is much more mild than fresh, but if you have fresh ginger, you could cut a few slices and lay that in the foil pouch with the beet.

This part, you need two hands.  Fold up the edges of the aluminum foil to make a pouch.  Fold the corners up to the top - centre, and pinch the sides closed.  Remember, there is liquid in there and you don't want that to spill all over the oven.  Make tightly closed pouches.

Put the wrapped beet pouches on a cookie sheet or a baking pan so that you can move them in and out of the oven easily.  Put them in the 400º F (205º C) preheated oven for about one hour.

You will know the beets are fully cooked when you can stick a knife in the centre and the beet falls off the knife by itself.  If the beet does not fall, it is not cooked in the middle.  If you check the beets and they are not fully cooked in the centre, continue to cook for 10 minutes, check again, then go in 7 minute increments until the beets are fully soft.  Allow them to sit at room temperature for about 15 minutes until they are cool enough to handle with your hands.

Take the beets out of the foil pouches.  Now, it is time to peel them.  You can rub with your fingers to remove the skin, or you can use a small knife to start the process, and then, the skins should come off the beet like a banana peel comes away from the banana.  It will be an easy process, but your hands will end up being quite colourful!  If you are sensitive to this, please wear gloves to peel the beets.  Some people will peel beets under lightly running water.  We don't want to do that here because we don't want to wash away any of the flavour, so either rub or use a knife.

Once the beets are peeled, you have to figure out how you want to cut them. It is easies to slice, or to cut the beets in half and then slice.  Some prefer to it in cut cubes.  However you like, cut the beets.

Add the liquid from the aluminum foil pouches, too.  This will bring together all of the flavours used in making these roasted beets.  

Sprinkle them with a little red wine vinegar and a bit of orange juice. Toss the beets in the bowl to make sure they are all coated with the liquids.  Adjust the salt if you need to, and serve the beets warm or cold on top of a bed of beet greens from yesterday.  Then, to make it all come together, use the leftover liquid from the bottom of the bowl to drizzle over the beets and the greens.  That is when you will get the flavours of the orange and ginger to bring everything together.

Then, you are free to enjoy the vegetables of your labours (we cannot call them fruits).

"A man who is kind, benefits himself, but a cruel man hurts himself"

Book of Proverbs: 11:17