Calliope's Real Greek Food

cooking & stories in my Brooklyn kitchen

Imam bayildi

#Vegetarian #Vegan #GlutenFree

A summer classic! Originally, a Turkish recipe that was introduced to the Greek cuisine by the Greeks of Asia Minor.  It translates “the imam fainted”! The tale goes like this: the imam swooned from delight when his wife served this dish to him. Others say that

the imam’s wife used all the olive oil to prepare it and when he found out he fainted! Eggplants are like oil sponges, so I believe the latter version of the tale.

Serve it at room temperature with Greek feta cheese or yogurt and bread. It tastes better the day after (with pasta ;-) 

Preparation Method

1.     Shave long, alternate strips of peel off the eggplants, top to bottom; leave the stem on

2.     Make an incision, half way to into the flesh being careful not to cut through the skin

3.     Soak them in a large bowl filled with water and 1tbsp. of salt for 30 minutes

4.     In the meantime, prepare the sauce; heat 1 cup of olive oil and sauté the onions for 10 mins until translucent, but not brown; add the garlic for 3 mins and finally the tomatoes, season and add the sugar; let it simmer for about 20 minutes until you get a somewhat thick sauce

5.     When the sauce is ready, start frying the eggplants in a different sauce pan using the remaining olive oil until they are soft and golden brown

6.     Line the fried eggplants in a deep baking dish and stuff them with some of the sauce & onions

7.     Finish by pouring on top the remaining sauce & some of the olive oil you have used to fry the eggplants; sprinkle with parsley

8.     Bake for about 45 minutes at 380F

Ingredients

-       2 medium onions, sliced

-       2 cloves garlic, crushed

-       4 medium ripe tomatoes, peeled and ground

-       parsley, chopped

-       4 Sicilian (zebra or graffiti) eggplants

-       1 ½ cup extra virgin olive oil

-       1 tsp. sugar

-       salt & freshly ground black pepper

Preparation Time: 30 minutes

Cooking Time: 45 minutes – 1hour

Serves: 4

Easiest bread ever

{eykolo psomi}
#Vegetarian

This recipe is the easiest you can find and it always works! Use strained Greek yogurt to make it and enjoy it hot as it comes out of the oven with summer tomatoes, oregano and feta cheese! 

Preparation Method

1.     Sieve the flour with baking soda in a large bowl

2.     In another bowl, mix the salt with the yogurt and then add the yogurt into the flour bowl

3.     Mix well and knead your bread for 2 minutes on a well floured surface

4.     Shape it into a loaf or a soccer ball and place it on a floured baking sheet

5.     Sprinkle with some flour and bake it in a preheated oven at 400F for about 45minutes - 1 hour

Ingredients

-       4 cups all purpose white flour

-       2 cups Greek yogurt

-       1 teaspoon sea salt

-       2 teaspoons baking soda

-       1-2 tbsp. water

 

 

 

 

 

 

Preparation Time: 5 minutes

Baking Time: 45 - 60 minutes

The Famous Greek Moussaka

 {Fried eggplant and potato dish, with ground beef & béchamel}

This flagship dish of the Greek cuisine was not included in it until the early 1920s! It is the Greeks of the Minor Asia, who came to the mainland as refugees after the Smyrna catastrophe in 1922, the ones who should take the credit for this universally acknowledged “traditional Greek food”.  Poverty in the mainland and the islands would not allow such an elaborate dish in the Greek diet.

 

Tips: Make the meat filling the day before and store it in the fridge, it will save you some preparation time.

Let the eggplants soak in salted water for about 30 minutes before you fry or bake them (salted water kills some of the bitterness)

Preparation Method for the Béchamel Sauce

1.     Melt butter in a saucepan over low heat. Using a whisk, add flour to melted butter whisking continuously to make a smooth paste or roux. Let the flour/butter mixture to cook for a minute but do not allow it to brown

2.     Add warmed milk to mixture in a steady stream, whisking continuously. Simmer over low heat until it thickens but does not boil; about 20mins

3.     Add a pinch of salt. It takes a while for the sauce to thicken, be patient (Béchamel is thicker than gravy but not quite as thick as pudding. It should be somewhere in between)

 

Preparation Method

1.     Pre-heat the oven to 350F

2.     Fry the potatoes lightly and place them on paper towels to absorb the oil

3.     Fry the eggplants lightly and place them on paper towels (alternatively, you can roast the potatoes and eggplants with some oil for about 20 minutes)

4.     Heat olive oil in a large sauté pan. Add the ground beef and cook over medium-high heat until pink color disappears, about 5 minutes

5.     Add onions and garlic and cook until they are translucent, about 5 minutes

6.     Add wine & bay leaf & wait for the spirit to disappear (you need to move to the next step, with not so many liquids in the sauce, just meat mainly)

7.     Add the tomato sauce, salt, and pepper and allow sauce to simmer over low heat for 10 - 15 minutes.  

8.     Layer the bottom of a lasagna pan with the fried potatoes and top it with the fried eggplants

9.     Top with the meat filling and finish with the béchamel

10.  Sprinkle with parmesan cheese

11.  Bake at 350F for approximately 50 minutes or until the top is golden. Let it sit for 30 minutes before serving

Ingredients

-       1 – 2 medium eggplants (depending on the pan) cut lengthwise into thick slices

-       1 – 2 medium russet potatoes cut lengthwise into thick slices

-       1 cup olive oil

-       1 pound ground beef

-       1 large yellow onion, finely chopped

-       1 clove of garlic, minced

-       1 cup dry white wine

-       1-2 bay leaves

-       1 can tomato puree or diced canned tomatoes

-       ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

-       salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

 

Ingredients for the béchamel sauce

-       1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks)

-       1 cup all purpose flour

-       4 cups milk, warmed

-       salt & white pepper

-       nutmeg (optional)

 


Preparation Time: 45 minutes

Cooking Time: 50 minutes

Serves: 6 – 8

Theia Vaggela’s pastitsio

{Baked pasta with ground beef & béchamel}

My great aunt Vaggela would always prepare this amazingly delicious dish to please the children at family gatherings. The taste of this comfort food makes me go back in time.

It takes some time to prepare, no doubt, but the result is happy, satisfied faces around the table. This recipe dates back to my family’s earliest cookbooks.

Tip: make the meat filling the day before and store it in the fridge, it will save you half the preparation time

Preparation Method

1.     Heat olive oil in a large sauté pan. Add the ground beef and cook over medium-high heat until pink color disappears, about 5 minutes

2.     Add onions and garlic and cook until they are translucent, about 5 minutes

3.     Add wine and bay leaf & wait for the spirit to disappear (you need to move to the next step, with not so many liquids in the sauce, just meat mainly)

4.     Add the tomato sauce, salt, and pepper and allow sauce to simmer over low heat for 10 - 15 minutes.  

5.     Cook pasta according to package directions and drain well

6.     Melt 1/2 cup of butter in pasta pot and return cooked pasta to the pot. Stir in 1 cup of grated cheese and toss lightly, being careful not to break the pasta

7.     Brush the bottom and sides of the lasagna pan with olive oil. Layer the bottom with half the pasta and press down so that they are somewhat flat

8.     Add the meat filling in an even layer to the pasta. Top with remaining pasta and flatten top layer

9.     Pre-heat the oven to 350F while you prepare the béchamel sauce.

 

Preparation Method for the béchamel Sauce

1.     Melt butter in a saucepan over low heat. Using a whisk, add flour to melted butter whisking continuously to make a smooth paste or roux. Let the flour/butter mixture to cook for a minute but do not allow it to brown

2.     Add warmed milk to mixture in a steady stream, whisking continuously. Simmer over low heat until it thickens but does not boil

3.     Add a pinch of salt. It takes a while for the sauce to thicken, be patient (Béchamel is thicker than gravy but not quite as thick as pudding. It should be somewhere in between)

4.      Pour the béchamel over the pasta making sure to pour sauce down in to the corners as well. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup of grated Parmesan cheese

5.     Bake at 350 for approximately 50 minutes or until the top is nice and golden. Let it sit for 30 minutes before serving

Ingredients

-       1/4 cup olive oil

-       1 pound ground beef

-       1 large yellow onion, finely chopped

-       1 clove of garlic, minced

-       1 cup dry white wine

-       1-2 bay leaves

-       1 can tomato puree or diced canned tomatoes

-       1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

-       salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

-       1 pkg. penne pasta

-       1/2 cup butter (or less)

 

Ingredients for the béchamel sauce

-       1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks)

-       1 cup all purpose flour

-       4 cups milk, warmed

-       salt & white pepper

-       nutmeg (optional)

 


Preparation Time: 40 minutes

Cooking Time: 50 minutes

Serves: 6 – 8

Chickpeas with spinach

{revythia me spanaki}

#Vegetarian #Vegan #GlutenFree

This is a delicious variation to the regular chickpeas soup and a great way to use your left overs chickpeas. You may also add sausages in this recipe and have a meat dish, too. Serve it with fresh bread and any goat cheese you like, but feta cheese is ideal!

Preparation Method

  1. The night before: soak the chickpeas in water in a bowl (add 1 tsp. baking soda to help them soften)
  2. The next day, rinse the chickpeas with fresh water
  3. Boil the beans in a pot with plenty of water for about 1 hour. Strain the beans, but keep 1 cup of that water
  4. Use the same pot to sauté the onions for about 5 minutes, add the garlic and sauté for another 2-3 minutes
  5. Add the tomato pure and let it boil for a couple of minutes, too. If using sausages, add them now and sauté for 1 minute
  6. Add the chickpeas, the bay leave and the rosemary and allow them to sauté for a couple of minutes
  7. Pour the cup of the chickpeas water and another cup of water and let it simmer for 3 minutes
  8. Finally, add the spinach gradually and let this simmer for 20-30 minutes
  9. Season and serve warm

Ingredients

-       1 pound dry chickpeas

-       ¾ cup extra virgin olive oil

-       4 cloves garlic

-       2 white onions, sliced

-       1 can of tomato pure

-       1 pound fresh spinach

-       1 bay leaf

-       some rosemary

-       salt & freshly ground pepper

-       ½ pound sausage, sliced (optional)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Preparation Time: 20 minutes

Cooking Time: 2 hours

Serves: 5

Greek rice pudding

{ryzogalo}

#vegetarian #glutenfree

All the women in my house could make ‘ryzogalo’ with their eyes closed! Each one had their own recipe however, and all of them would brag that the kids would devour theirs faster. I like the vanilla version, but I find the recipe from the Dodecanese islands really unique, because it is made with ‘Chios Mastiha’; the natural tree resin from Chios island with the distinct flavor and antioxidant qualities. The one thing that cannot be omitted though, is the cinnamon on top! This is a classic treat for all seasons since it can be enjoyed warm or cold. Try variations on toppings with nuts, dried fruits and thyme honey. 

Preparation Method

1.     Boil the rice in water with salt, until rice has absorbed some of the water (about 10 - 15 minutes).

2.     Warm the milk and add it in the rice with the vanilla seeds and the sugar. Mix well.

3.     Mix the cornstarch in a cup with a little bit of water and add it to the pot, as soon as the rice has fully boiled (taste it).

4.     Simmer for about 10 minutes or until the mixture thickens.

5.     Remove from heat and transfer the pudding into individual serving dishes or glass bowls.

6.     Serve warm or cold, but allow it to cool well before you store it in fridge.

7.     Top with cinnamon powder or other toppings of your choice

Ingredients

-       3 cups whole milk, warmed

-       ½ cup Arborio rice

-       1 ½ cups water

-       4 tbsp. sugar (or thyme honey)

-       seeds from 1 vanilla pod (for Mastiha flavor, use 1 tsp. Chios Mastiha Powder)

-       2 tbsp. cornstarch

-       a pinch of salt

-       cinnamon powder

 

Cooking Time: 30 minutes

Soutzoukakia Smyrneika

 {Smyrna Meatballs & Sauce}

The Greeks from Smyrna came to Greece as refuges in the early 1920s after the Asia Minor catastrophe, bringing a whole new culture to the poor Greek society. Their sophisticated cuisine was of great influence to the simple, peasant style Greek cooking. We owe the Greeks of Asia Minor many signature dishes, like the famous ‘moussaka’. This is another example of their aromatic cuisine.

Preparation Method for meatballs

1.     In a bowl, soak the bread in Mavrodaphne wine for a few minutes

2.     Squeeze out the liquid from the bread and crumble it; keep the wine on the side

3.     Put the ground beef in a medium sized bowl and add the crumbled bread

4.     Add the garlic, the olive oil, the cumin, salt & pepper

5.     Mix well using your hands

6.     To roll, soak your hands in the remaining wine and take portions of meat about the size of a large walnut and form sausage like rolls

7.     Place the meatballs on a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes at 400F

8.     Prepare the sauce, putting all the ingredients in a large saucepan and allowing to boil for 15 minutes

9.     When the meatballs are ready, place them in the sauce and simmer for 10 minutes until sauce thickens

Ingredients for meatballs

-       1 pound of ground beef, preferably grass fed

-       2 cloves of garlic, crashed

-       1 teaspoon cumin

-       2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

-       2 slices of stale bread

-       1/2 cup Mavrodaphne (sweet) wine or Madeira

-       salt & pepper

 

Ingredients for sauce

-       ½ cup extra virgin olive oil

-       2 pounds ground or strained tomatoes

-       1 tbsp. tomato paste

-       dash of cinnamon

-       allspice

-       salt & black pepper

 

 

 


Preparation Time: 15 minutes

Cooking Time: 20 minutes

Serves: 4 (app.14 pieces)

Greek & vegan chocolate cake

{nistisimo cake}

#Vegetarian #Vegan

This is a delicious teacake that I usually make during the Great Lent period. It is an ideal snack for kids, healthy and nutritious. Bake it in a loaf pan or in a cupcake tray. It tastes better the day after!

Tips: Make sure you don’t open the oven door before the first 45 minutes, or the cake will be flat. Allow the cake to completely cool before you remove it from tray.

Preparation Method

1.     In a large bowl, mix all liquids

2.     In another bowl, mix all dry ingredients

3.     Pour the liquids into the dry ingredients bowl and use a spoon to mix (do not over mix)

4.     Finally, add the chocolate, raisins and walnuts

5.     Pour the mixture into an olive oil coated baking tray and bake for about 1 hour at 340F

Ingredients

-       ½ cup extra virgin olive oil

-       ¾ cup freshly squeezed orange juice

-       ¼ cup water

-       2 tbsp. brandy

-       2 cups all purpose flour

-       1 cup brown sugar

-       1 tsp. cinnamon

-       ¼ tsp. nutmeg

-       ¼ tsp. ground cloves

-       1 tbsp. baking soda

-       zest of 1 orange

-       1 cup vegan chocolate drops

-       1 cup finely chopped walnuts

-       ½ cup raisins


Preparation Time: 10 minutes

Baking Time: 60 minutes

Serves: 5-6

Baked Greek giant beans

{gigantes sto fourno}

#Vegetarian #Vegan #Glutenfree

Eat beans at least twice a week. By applying this rule, you are one step closer to the ancient Greeks! Legumes are very popular in Greece. It is the food of the poor and the main source of protein during long fasting periods. Like most ‘ladera’ dishes, baked Greek giant beans are best served at room temperature with feta cheese & bread.

Preparation Method

  1. Soak the beans in water and baking soda, the night before
  2. The next day, rinse and strain the beans and boil them for about 40mins
  3. Preheat the oven to 400F
  4. In the meantime, heat half a cup of the olive oil in a deep pan and sauté the onions, garlic & celery
  5. Add the sugar, the tomatoes, the parsley, salt & pepper (and paprika, if using)
  6. Let this mixture boil for 10 minutes
  7. Strain the beans as soon as they are soft and place them in a roasting pan; add the vegetables mixture, the remaining olive oil and one cup of water
  8. Bake for 45 minutes at 400F

Ingredients

-       1pound giant lima beans  

-       1 tsp. baking soda

-       1-2 onions, sliced

-       5-6 cloves of garlic, sliced

-       1 cup extra virgin olive oil

-       1 – 2 celery stalks, chopped

-       1.5 pounds diced tomatoes (or 1 can diced tomatoes or tomato pure)

-       1 tbsp. sugar

-       salt & freshly ground pepper

-       ½ bunch parsley, chopped

-       a pinch of paprika (optional)

Preparation Time: 15 minutes

Cooking Time: 90 minutes

Serves: 6

Greek white bean soup

{fasolada}

#Vegetarian#Vegan#GlutenFree

This is the epitome of the Greek winter dish. It is the food of the poor, since its ingredients are cheap and humble, but the result is yummy and nutritious. Serve it hot with fresh bread, olives, ‘taramosalata’ (fish roe salad), feta cheese or any other goat cheese.  If you feel brave, you can also serve it with a raw sliced onion on the side!

Preparation Method

  1. Boil the beans in a pot with plenty of water for about 30-40minutes
  2. Strain the beans
  3. Chop the vegetables and use 2-3 tbsp. of the olive oil to sauté the onions, celery and carrots for 3 minutes
  4. Add the tomato paste and scrape the pot for the flavors to mix well
  5. Add the beans and enough boiling water to cover all the ingredients
  6. Cover and simmer for about 45 minutes or until soft
  7. Season at the end, and add the pepperoncino (if using)

Finish with the olive oil and let it simmer for another 5-10 minutes. 

Ingredients

-       1 pound dry white beans

-       3 carrots, diced

-       2 white onions, chopped

-       2 celery stalks, chopped

-       2 tbsp. tomato paste

-       1 tsp. pepperoncino (optional)

-       ¾ cup extra virgin olive oil

-       salt & freshly ground pepper

Preparation Time: 10 minutes

Cooking Time: 90 minutes

Serves: 5

Fish soup from the Cyclades islands

{kykladitiki kakavia}

#glutenfree

This is the traditional soup of the Greek fishermen of the Aegean Sea. They usually make it on board after the day’s hard work and use all the fish that are not presentable for selling on market. Their secret is to add some seawater in the recipe! It is cooked in many variations depending on the seasonal vegetables and the catch of the day (cleaned but not fileted).

 

Preparation Method

  1. Place all vegetables in a large pot
  2. Place the fish on top of the vegetables
  3. Pour the olive oil and enough water to cover all the ingredients
  4. Season and boil until fish & vegetables are soft; do not cover the pot
  5. To serve, place the fish on a large plate with vegetables and keep the broth separate in individual bowls. Alternatively, blend all vegetables with the broth and keep the fish on a large plate

Ingredients

-       4 large onions, chopped

-       2 cups extra virgin olive oil

-       2 whole zucchinis

-       2 potatoes cut in 4 pieces

-       2 whole carrots

-       2 whole tomatoes

-       4 celery stalks

-       1/3 cup red wine vinegar

-       2 pounds of fish for soup (you may add shrimp or crab)

-       salt & pepper

-       lemon

 

 

Preparation Time: 10 minutes

Cooking Time: 30 – 45 minutes

Serves: 6