It is that time of year in Greece again. The big fasting period is approaching and its beginning is marked with Kathara Deftera (Clean Monday). On that day the food is special, people spend the day flying kites, dancing and eating taramosalata (fish roe dip made with olive oil and bread), olives, lagana (bread), shellfish, octopus and halva (you can read more about it here).
As this is a blog about the traditional Greek diet and food, I am always looking to make little tweaks here and there and make some recipes even healthier. I’ve been trying out some new ways for making taramosalata, and this one with whole wheat bread is outstanding. I have to say that I don’t like messing with traditional recipes if it is going change the taste drastically, but this recipe tasted great. The texture is a bit grainier compared to a taramosalata made with potato and the color is a bit tanner, but taste-wise there is not much difference. Read more »
Today is Kathara Deftera here in Greece, or Clean Monday. Basically it’s the first day of lent for the Greek Orthodox religion. Nutritionally it is important because it marks the beginning of the 40-day fast, which ends on Easter. I’ll talk about the fast later; in fact I’ll be talking about it quite often for the next 40 days. Traditionally Kathara Deftera was characterized as a day of cleansing oneself (spiritually) and preparing for the fasting and the mourning. People ate plain fish roe (taramas), bread, beans (without olive oil) and other vegetables.
Today things are bit different: modern Greeks spend the day flying kites, going to parks or out to the countryside, dancing and of course eating. Instead of just plain fish roe they eat taramosalata (fish roe dip made with olive oil and bread), olives, lagana (bread), shellfish, octopus and halva. The practice of going to the countryside and celebrating is called Koulouma and it’s a relatively recent tradition.
I’m not a huge fan of picnics but my favorite part of Kathara Deftera is the taramosalata. It is a very addictive dip made from fish roe, a lot of olive oil, bread or potatoes. First of all though, I want to set the record straight on the name; it is called Taramosalata NOT Taramasalata. No Greek ever calls it Taramasalata, so you shouldn’t either. Apparently though many people think the right name is the latter. When I did a search on Google, taramasalata (incorrect term) returned 462,000 results, when I searched taramosalata (the correct term) I only got 151,000 results.
So, yes this dip is rich and salty, but the ingredients, as with most Greek foods, are healthy. Fish roe is an excellent source of Omega-3 fatty acids and protein; olive oil as we all know is an excellent source of the good monounsaturated fats and antioxidants and lemon juice also rich in vitamin C, an antioxidant. Read more »
As a child my mom for some reason never made fava, we ate plenty of lentil soup but not the fava, this yellow split pea puree. I came across it as an appetizer in tavernes (plural in Greek for taverna) here in Greece, but unfortunately modern Greeks rarely eat it at home anymore.
Once my older son began eating solid food I made sure he ate traditional, seasonal, organic Greek dishes. So when he started eating beans, I made him fava. It’s easy, tasty, and hearty, especially on a cold day.
I use the original recipe from the traditional Greek cookbook from Hrisa Paradisi. You basically boil the beans and onion, and then puree them. I used a food mill instead of a food processor to puree the beans, but you can use whatever you feel comfortable with.
I ate the fava right after I took it off the stove; it was creamy, it was warm, it was the ultimate comfort food. Of course, it’s not only soothing to eat, it is healthy. Obviously the beans are healthy, full of antioxidants and non-animal protein, but also the combination of lemon, onion, and olive oil make fava an antioxidant powerhouse.
It is thought that this dish is only an appetizer or dip but it can also be a main course. Read more »
Tzatziki, the yogurt garlic dip is a favorite at Greek tavernas and restaurants. Greeks usually eat it with bread and it’s used for the famous souvlaki in a pita. If I have to be honest, it goes really well with fried zucchini and eggplant slices, obviously something to enjoy occasionally. But tzatziki is really versatile. You can use it as a dip, in a sandwich and as a sauce with meat.
While many people associate tzatziki with the unhealthy gyro sandwich or souvlaki, it’s actually very healthy and an antioxidant powerhouse. The garlic, olive oil and lemon juice are great sources of antioxidants and the yogurt is a good source of protein, calcium and has some of that friendly bacteria for your belly.
Now I need to clarify that the original tzatziki (it’s just called tzatziki – not tzatziki sauce or tzatziki dip) is pretty strong. I’ve seen recipes with very little garlic, and while less garlic may be less potent for some people, it is not the original tzatziki. Also tzatziki does not contain sour cream as I’ve seen in several recipes, actually you can’t even find sour cream in Greece. Also it is not tzatziki if it contains avocado or cayenne pepper, yes I’ve seen that as well.
Having said all this, there are times that a very garlicky tzatziki may be too much. If you are going to use it as an appetizer it may overpower the main course. In that case you can make an alternative lighter version of tzatziki, but I wouldn’t really call it tzatziki.
Although Greeks dont usually eat the dip with raw vegetables, I find it makes a great dip for carrot sticks, celery sticks, raw zucchini strips and cherry tomatoes. Perfect for an appetizer or snack.
So here is the original version that I have from 2 traditional Greek cookbooks (Tselementes and Hrysa Paradisi) Read more »