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March 21, 2012


     During Lent (our 40-day before Easter fasting period), the Greek Orthodox abstain from foods that are derived from animals with blood. This includes beef, poultry and many types of fish. Also restricted are eggs and dairy products. The foods we can eat during Lent may be restricting (that is if you're fasting), but that doesn't mean that Lenten dishes are boring and bland. The meals are mainly vegetarian but they don't lack in taste. These are just a representation of the many tasty and delicious Lenten dishes available:

1. Fassolatha - Classic Bean Soup

A staple of the Lenten season and not only, it is eaten throughout the year and is considered our "national" dish. It is hearty, nutritious, and delicious. (See recipe for Bean soup - Fassolatha)

2. Horta Vrasta - Boiled Leafy Greens

These are easy to prepare. Just plain boil them in plenty of water and then after draining them we dress with a bit of olive oil and lemon. Clean, pure taste and very nutritious.

3. Dolmathakia - Stuffed Grape Leaves with Rice and Herbs
Stuffed with rice and fresh herbs, dolmathakia (dol-mah-THAH-kya) take a little bit of time to prepare, but they are so worth the effort!  (The rest of the year we add a little minced meat in the stuffing.)

4. Revithatha - Chickpea Stew
A simple and rustic vegetarian stew made from chickpeas that is the specialty of the island of Sifnos, Greece. (Will give you this recipe in the future, too.)

5. Taramosalata - Carp Roe Spread

This is an appetizer, (the Greek word for appetizer is meze (Meh-zhe)). A salty and richly flavored creamy spread that is wonderfully accompanied by ouzo!

6. Fassolakia Lathera - Green Bean and Tomato Casserole

One of my personal favorites! Fresh green beans from the market cooked with freshly ground tomatoes (and a bit of tomato paste) and some potatoes. Oh! Must have fresh bread from the bakery and feta cheese, too.
7. Briam - Baked Vegetable Casserole

Briam is an oven roasted vegetable dish. Layers of vegetables are baked in a savory tomato sauce and served with feta cheese IF it isn't Lent. The vegetables are cut in slices and vary according to the season (eggplant, zucchini, potatoes, green, red and yellow pepper, carrots, fresh tomatoes, onions and of course garlic in the sauce).

8. Meatless Stuffed Vegetables with Rice - Yemista
This is another favorite of mine and it is eaten throughout the year as are most of these dishes. This meatless version of stuffed vegetables is really delicious. The stuffing is a mixture of rice and vegetables. This too goes well with feta cheese. (Must follow with the recipe in an upcoming post) 

10. Onion Stew - Stifado

Greek stifatho dishes are stews made with a lot of onions, the little baby onions, a tomato-based sauce, and often with the taste of cinnamon for good measure (and a twist of vinegar). (Stifatho dishes may include meat, poultry, or seafood f.e. octopus).
14. Puree of Yellow Split Peas - Fava

This is another appetizer (that also goes well with ouzo). Fava is made with boiled  and pureed  yellow split peas (or yellow daal). This is a great dish for vegetarians and vegans as well.

14. Spinach Pie without Cheese - Spanakopita

This version without cheese is as popular with Greeks as the version with cheese, and is a popular Lenten and fasting dish. I must give my mom's recipe. It's the best!

15. Lentil soup - Fakes

It is a great tasting and nutritional soup. It contains apart from the lentils, onion, garlic, bay leaves, and tomatoes. This soup is served with a dash of vinegar and chunks of crusty bread for dipping. Check out the recipe here.

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