While searching for a topic for my next blog, I went to my comments folder and found a request we received from one of our subscribers:
My mother came from Epirus, Greece...and with four children, she was
very economical with our dinners. She never missed cooking a meal. I
remember many stovetop dinners as well as oven dinners that had very
little meat and yet were so filling.....like the spanakorizo. With very few
ingredients, we had wonderful dinners. Can you highlight weekday dinner
recipes that come from the villages which do not have such a kitchen list of
so many ingredients? I think these would be considered "village foods."
Having been raised by a mom who celebrated horio (village) foods from Karpathois, it seemed like an ideal time to feature weekday Greek village meals that are appetizing and healthy, while going easy on the wallet. Inspired, I went to work on turning Aphrodite’s request into this week’s post, bringing that time-honored simplicity into our lives.
Most of these dishes make great leftovers, and the salad can be made ahead, adding the dressing just before serving.
(Μελιτζάνες στιφάδο, pronounced meh-lee-TZAH-nehs stee-FAH-thoh)
This traditional dish of eggplant, potato, tomato, olive oil, onion, and herbs is known throughout Greece, with a few regional tweaks. This cooking method brings out the flavor of the veggies and makes for a satisfying stew.
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 1 hour 10 minutes
Makes: 4 servings
1 pound eggplant, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes
3/4 cup olive oil, divided
3 medium onions, chopped
1 small red bell pepper, cored, seeded, cut into 1-inch dice
1 1/2 pounds plum tomatoes, chopped (or 2 3/4 cups canned crushed tomatoes)
1 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/4 cup flour
1. In a large bowl, combine 1 tablespoon salt and 1 cup cold water; stir until dissolved. Add the eggplant and enough water to cover (weighting down with a small dish to keep the eggplant submerged); let stand at least 30 minutes or up to an hour.
2. Meanwhile, fill another large bowl halfway with water. Peel the potatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes and transfer to water in bowl. Make sure they’re completely submerged to prevent discoloration. Set aside.
3. In a large pot over medium heat, heat 1/2 cup olive oil, then add the onion and bell pepper; cook until softened and just starting to brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in the tomato, parsley, 1 1/2 cups water, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Increase heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, 20 minutes. Drain the potatoes and add to the pot. Cook until the potatoes are just fork tender, 15 to 20 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, drain the eggplant and pat dry with paper towels. Line a cookie sheet with paper towels. In a large skillet over high heat, heat remaining 1/4 cup olive oil. Coat the eggplant on all sides with flour, shaking off excess, and fry, turning every couple of minutes, until golden brown on all sides, about 10 minutes. Transfer to prepared sheet to drain.
5. Gently stir eggplant into the tomatoes and potatoes, cover, and cook 10 minutes more.
(χωριάτικη σαλάτα, pronounced hohr-YAH-tee-kee sah-LAH-tah)
This is the salad that comes to mind when you think Greek! For a protein-packed main course, add grilled chicken.
Total prep time: 15 minutes
Makes: 4 to 6 servings
4 ripe medium-size or 8 plum tomatoes, cut into thick slices (or 3 pints cherry or grape tomatoes, halved)
1 seedless cucumber, halved lengthwise and cut into thick slices
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
1 red or green bell pepper, sliced
1/2 cup kalamata olives
1 8-ounce block Greek feta cheese, cut into 1-inch cubes
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano or 1 teaspoon fresh oregano leaves
Pinch sea salt
Pinch freshly ground pepper
Crusty bread, for serving
1. In a large serving bowl, toss together the tomatoes, cucumber, onion, bell pepper, and olives. (Can be made a few hours ahead without adding dressing. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.)
2. Make dressing: In a small bowl, whisk together all of the salad ingredients until emulsified. (Can be made up to 5 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.)
3. Toss the feta and dressing into the salad. Serve with bread on the side.
(γίγαντες πλακί, pronounced YEE-ghahn-dehs plah-KEE)
In Greek, the term plaki refers to a baked dish that includes olive oil, tomato, and vegetables.
These giant Greek beans baked in a rich tomato sauce are loaded with protein and fiber, making this dish a hearty main course, but it can easily be served up as a delicious meze on toasted bread.
Prep time: 10 minutes, plus standing
Cooking time: about 30 minutes (plus 50 minutes for dried beans)
Baking time: 1 hour
Makes: 4 to 6 servings
1 1/2 pounds dried butter beans (or 4 16-ounce cans, drained and rinsed)
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 1/4 teaspoons sea salt, divided
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 cup vegetable or chicken broth, divided
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch dried Greek oregano
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, for serving
5 ounces crumbled Greek feta, for serving (optional)
Crusty bread or rusk bread, for serving
1. If using dried beans: In a large bowl, soak the dried beans overnight in enough water to cover by 1 inch. Drain, rinse, then place in a large saucepan with enough water to cover by 1 inch. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer and cook until just tender (not soft), about 50 minutes. Drain and set aside.
2. Heat oven to 350°F. In a stockpot over medium heat, heat 1/4 cup olive oil. Add the onion, garlic, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cook until onion has softened (don’t brown), about 10 minutes. Dissolve the tomato paste in 1/4 cup of broth, then add to the onion with the crushed tomatoes, pepper, cinnamon, oregano, sugar, and remaining 1 teaspoon salt. Simmer until the sauce begins to thicken, about 20 minutes.
3. Bring remaining broth to a boil. Stir the broth, drained beans, and remaining 1/4 cup olive oil into the sauce. Transfer to a large ovenproof casserole dish or baking pan, spreading out evenly, and bake, uncovered, about 1 hour, until the beans are tender and creamy and the sauce has thickened and is bubbling. Let cool about 15 minutes before serving.
4. To serve: Sprinkle with parsley and top with feta, if desired. Serve warm or at room temperature with bread.
(σπανακόρυζο, pronounced spah- nah-KOH-ree-zoh)
This was a side-dish staple in our kouzina growing up and it was one of our favorite ways to enjoy spinach (spanaki). The rice (rizi) made it filling and scallion and herbs make it flavorful, ideal alongside seafood when fasting or anytime. Though there are a number of variations (like adding chickpeas or tomatoes), we’re featuring the beloved one-pot classic here. Feel free to serve with Greek feta or yogurt, if desired. This recipe pairs well with our Baked Fish recipe (below).
Prep time: 15 minutes, plus standing
Cooking time: about 35 minutes
Makes: 8 servings
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
4 scallions, chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 cup long-grain rice
2 pounds spinach leaves, washed well, chopped, and drained
1 teaspoon dried mint
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
Sea salt, to taste
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
2 cups vegetable or chicken broth, or water
Juice of 2 lemons
Lemon wedges, for serving
1. In a large stockpot over medium heat, heat the olive oil, then add the scallion and sauté until softened, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until aromatic, about 1 minute. Stir in the rice, coating with oil. Add the spinach, mint, and dill, stirring to cook down. Cook just until the spinach wilts, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in the broth or water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until the rice is tender, about 20 minutes, adding additional water as needed.
2. Stir in lemon juice, a drizzle of olive oil, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with lemon wedges on the side.
(ψάρι πλακί, pronounced PSAH-ree plah-KEE)
This is a popular Greek-Island dish. The tomato sauce’s intense flavor pairs well with an array of white-fleshed fish. This recipe goes well with our Spanakorizo, rice, or potatoes.
KOUZINA TIP: To save time, do step 1 first, then prepare the remaining ingredients.
Prep time: 20 minutes, plus chilling
Cooking time: about 30 minutes
Baking time: 15 minutes
Makes: 4 servings
4 cod, halibut, or striped bass fillets (6 ounces each), patted dry
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for dish
Freshly ground pepper
1 medium red onion, cut in half lengthwise and thinly sliced
1 small red or green bell pepper, cut into thin strips
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes (in season, use 1 1/2 pounds chopped fresh ripe tomatoes)
1/2 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, divided
1/4 cup pitted kalamata olives, sliced
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
1. Season the fish with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Oil a 9-by-13-inch baking dish and arrange the fish in a single layer in the dish. Drizzle with the lemon juice. Cover and refrigerate at least 30 minutes or up to 1 hour.
2. In a large skillet over medium heat, heat the oil, then add the onion and bell pepper. Season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring frequently, until softened and starting to brown, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until aromatic, about 1 minute. Add the wine and cook until reduced by half, about 2 minutes. Stir in the tomato, 1/4 cup parsley, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper and bring to a simmer. Simmer until the sauce has started to thicken, about 15 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, heat oven to 400°F. Pour the sauce over the fish, sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 cup parsley and the olives. Bake about 15 minutes, until the fish is opaque and just starts to flake easily with a fork. Sprinkle with cheese and serve.
Recipes by Kelly Salonica Staikopoulos
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I hope you enjoyed this week’s celebration of village cooking. Stay tuned for more Greek recipes in upcoming blogs.
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Kali orexi! Good appetite!
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