Traditionally Greek

So, I must admit that cooking Greek food in the US (especially where there isn’t a Greek community or available authentic Greek products) is much more complicated and interesting than I expected. I am not sure how many of you have been facing similar issues when trying to recreate any of my (or other) Greek recipes. I have found that there are some quite huge differences in a few Greek products here compared to there, especially the yogurt and feta quality and consistency. But there are also big differences in the vegetables, specifically cucumbers – American cucumbers are freaking huge; I recommend using the British or mini cucumbers for your tzatziki or Greek salads. The tomatoes, eggplants, and even zucchinis are extraordinarily large too (Texas sized, maybe?) and not as flavorful as the garden grown variety.

On the other hand though, I have thoroughly enjoyed the oversized kitchen with granite countertops, a kitchen island, convection oven, dishwasher, and outdoor grill! I guess the grass is always greener on the other side!!!

A couple of weeks ago I made one of the most popular Greek dishes, called moussaka. This is a rich eggplant based, lasagna-like dish that is also sometimes made with potatoes (mine is at least, but you could easily substitute for a double portion of eggplants)! My family loved it and I will most definitely be making it again and again. My husband says it is the “king” of Greek foods, maybe that is because it takes like 3-4 hours to prepare or maybe because you feel like a king when you are eating this divine dish. 

Moussaka RecipeServes 6-8
2 medium or 1 extra large eggplant
sea salt
3-4 medium potatoes
salt and pepper
1 lb. lean ground beef (or lamb)
1 large white onion, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, pressed
2-3 T. EVOO + extra 
1 cinnamon stick (or 1/2 tsp. cinnamon)
1-2 bay leaves
pinch all spice
3-4 fresh tomatoes or 1 large can whole peeled tomatoes, processed
1/4 cup red wine
1/4 -1/2 cup whole wheat breadcrumbs 

Bechamel Sauce Recipe
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 stick of unsalted butter
4-5 cups hot whole milk (substitute 2% milk if preferred)
Sea salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
½ tsp nutmeg
3 egg yolks, beaten
1 1/2 – 2 cups hard cheese (kefalotyri, parmesan, or romano) 

Eggplant and potato preparation: Wash eggplants and trim the steams. Leave or peel off the skin and cut lengthwise or round thinly sliced pieces. Place in a large strainer and sprinkle liberally with sea salt. Set aside for 30 minutes to let sweat out the bitter juices of the eggplant. Rinse with chilled water and pat dry with paper towels. Drizzle lightly with olive oil and either grill, broil, or fry until soft and tender. Grill for just a few minutes on each side or broil for 10-15 minutes on a baking tray or fry lightly, until the eggplant is lightly browned and soft. Set aside to cool.

Clean the potatoes really well, removing the skins if desired. Thinly slice with a sharp knife into 1/4″ rounds. Let soak in a large bowl of cold water for 15 minutes and then pat dry. Drizzle with olive oil and salt and pepper. Grill for just a few minutes on each side or broil for 10-15 minutes on a baking tray or fry lightly, cooking until centers are soft. Set aside to cool.

Meat sauce preparation:
Heat a lightly oiled skillet on medium-low heat. Sauté the onions for 5 minutes and then add the garlic and cook for another 5-7 minutes, or until transparent and soft. Add the meat and sauté until lightly browned, season lightly with salt and pepper.

Carefully drain of any excess fat and then add tomatoes, and sprinkle half of the breadcrumbs. Mix thoroughly and then add all the spices (cinnamon, all spice, and bay leaf) and wine. Cover lightly and simmer for 30-40 minutes or until all liquids are absorbed. Turn off the heat and set aside uncovered. Before assembling, add 1 ladle of the bechamel sauce to the meat mixture and combine well.
Bechamel sauce preparation: 
To save time, prepare the sauce while the meat is simmering. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over low heat. Gradually add the sifted flour, ¼ cup at a time whisking quickly until smooth. Repeat until all of the flour is added and there are no clumps. Increase the heat to medium-low and slowly add the milk continuing to whisk constantly. The sauce will slowly begin to thicken, about 10-15 minutes. Once it coats a spoon, remove from heat and slowly add the beaten eggs in a stream and then the spices. Return sauce to the heat and whisk for an additional minute or two until all ingredients are combined. Set aside to cool.

Assembling the moussaka:
Preheat the oven to 350/180 degrees. Lightly oil the bottom and sides of your baking dish (square for thicker, rectangle for thinner). Sprinkle the remaining breadcrumbs over the bottom of your pan, align the potato slices on top of the breadcrumbs, overlapping slightly. Spread half the meat mixture (remember to have added 1 ladle of bechamel sauce) on top of the potatoes, and then layer the eggplant slices, also overlapping slightly – making sure to cover the entire dish. Spread the remaining meat mixture over the eggplants and top with the remaining bechamel sauce. 

Bake for 30 minutes, and then sprinkle the cheese on top. Return to the oven and bake for an additional 15-20 minutes or until the top becomes golden brown and bubbly. Leave the moussaka in the oven with the oven door cracked open for another 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow the moussaka to cool for an additional 15-20 minutes before serving, this ensures that it sets up properly.   

Whoohoo.. did you make it through all that? I imagine you only read every detail if you planned on preparing this bad boy! I promise that your endeavor will not be in vain though, you will be thankful with each and every bite you take!

This recipe only appears quite complicated, truth is that it just has many steps involved. I tried to be detailed and it really is worth the effort for an impressive Greek-style dinner. Let me know what you think. Thanks so much for your support and patience during this transitional stage of life. 

Kali Orexi, 


Chicken Souvlaki with a Lemon Oregano Marinade

Traditionally Greek
One of the most popular street foods in Greece (maybe after gyros) is called souvlaki. Souvlaki is simply meat on a stick, the most common meat being pork or chicken. It is marinaded usually all night or at least all morning and then grilled to perfection and served either in a pita sandwich or just with homemade french fries and of course, tzatziki.  Souvlaki is also a simple Greek food that can be made at home with only a few ingredients! I love my souvlaki grilled out in the summer time and served with an ice cold glass of beer and homemade fries.

Greek Souvlaki with a Lemon Oregano Marinade Recipe
4 T. Fresh lemon juice
3 – 4 T. EVOO Oil
1 T. red wine vinegar (or just wine)
1 tsp. Greek oregano
1 tsp. Greek thyme, optional
2 – 4 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/4 onion, sliced or cubed
salt and pepper

Simply whisk everything together and set aside while preparing souvlaki sticks. 

Souvlaki Meat Sticks:
1 lb. chicken or pork (shoulder), cubed
Handful of red and green bell peppers, cubed
1/2 onion, white or purple, cubed
Soak your wooden sticks in water for at least 30 minutes and then assemble your chicken/pork cubes alternating with peppers and/or onion cubes. Place in shallow pan or dish and pour marinade evenly over all of the souvlaki and let marinate overnight or at least a few hours, turning once. 
Souvlaki is best grilled over charcoals on a low to medium heat, but can just as easily be grilled on a gas or indoor grill. Depending on the thickness and size of your meat, cook evenly on both sides until middle is white but still juicy. I always like to baste it once or twice while grilling using some of the marinade. 
Authentic souvlaki is served with a half a lemon and some extra Greek oregano sprinkled over the meat and potatoes.  For a little healthier option, try using these oven fries.  

Summer is the perfect time for this Greek treat, try it and let me know what you think? I always love hearing from you in the comments section or a personal email.

Thanks for stopping by and I hope you are having a great week!

Kali Orexi,


Stuffed Zucchini

Traditionally Greek
Dear readers and faithful followers of Seemingly Greek, 
I need to ask for a little grace in the coming weeks. I have many new recipes to share and I had this perfect “plan” of having all of the images uploaded with the typed out recipes – but, that dream isn’t a reality. It is actually furtherest from the truth… I should be uploading a picture of my living room in an utter mess as I try to get ready to leave tomorrow for the States. 
I thought I would have all day today to not only finish packing but to also upload and post some new (fabulous) recipes. That was before I learned that I had to go to the main city (Mytilene) to turn in some paperwork, and if any part of you is Greek or has ever lived in Greece, I am sure you can fully understand that what should have taken 2 hours at most – TOOK ALL DAY!!!! Running from one office to the next, and back to the original office only to learn that I was missing an important stamp from the village I live in (40 minutes away)!!!!! You also understand that right now the public servants are not getting paid by the government and hence are not motivate to work at all (regardless whether some of them weren’t motivated even before the payments stopped). The offices also close at 1pm everywhere and if you don’t complete your paperwork the first day, you must return the next – lucky me, I get to go to Mytilene today, tomorrow morning, and tomorrow night! 
I thank you so much for your understanding while I am transitioning. I also don’t know if I have shared this or not yet, but my husband and I have applied to move abroad to teach (under the Greek government) at a Greek school in the US! So, with the addition of not only having to fight bureaucratic stuff and packing at the last minute, I am leaving my husband for at least 1 1/2 months and figure what is important to take if I don’t return in August!?!? We find out (hopefully in July) if God has blessed us to move abroad!!! Remember us in your prayers, we would love to be transferred to either Florida or Delaware… completely different adventures, but wherever He chooses I am sure it will be a right fit. And I finally have a peace that if we are still here on the island, that I can and will make it – I will have my husband, a great (new) friend, and a job! His will be done, not ours!!!! 
I plan to still keep blogging while in the US, but my schedule is pretty busy so maybe it will look a little different then it does now! Thanks again… I appreciate you all! 

PS. This stuffed zucchini with avgolemono sauce was fantastic!!!!! 

Stuffed Zucchini Recipe with Avgolemono Sauce:
Printable Recipe
4-6 medium-large zucchinis*, tops removed and carefully cored

4-5 T. EVOO (extra virgin olive oil)
1/2 kilo (~1 lb.) minced meat or chopped mushrooms 
1-2 onions, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
1 T. dried Greek oregano
1 T. fresh mint or dill, optional
1 small bunch fresh parseley, chopped
1 T. tomato paste or 3/4 cup tomato sauce
1 1/2 cups hot water
1 large tomato, chopped
1 cup rice
3-4 small/medium potatoes, peeled and chopped evenly
1/2 bullion (beef or vegetable) cube  (or homemade stock)
1-2 cups additional hot water
*or substitute a couple of tomatoes


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Wash, cut off bottoms, and hallow the middle of the zucchinis  or slice into simple zucchini boats and spoon out centers. Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Place meat (or mushrooms) and onions in the skillet, cook until brown and drain excess fat; then, add dry rice stirring to coat well and let cook for 1-2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, oregano and mint/dill, zucchini flesh and fresh tomato, mix together and cook approximately 5 minutes. Add the tomato paste and 1 1/2 cups hot water. Continue cooking 10-15 minutes, adding more water if needed until rice becomes just tender or al dente. The mixture should be wet, but not runny. Mix in the chopped fresh parsley and spoon or fill zucchinis and/or tomatoes with the mixture, arrange in a large baking dish. Add chopped potatoes around the vegetables, dissolve the bullion cube in hot water and fill the pan until half the height of zucchinis, drizzle with a little olive oil. Cover lightly with foil or cover and bake 30-40 minutes in a preheated oven. Remove foil or top, and continue baking 10-20 minutes, until stuffing is tender and lightly browned.

Avgolemono Sauce Recipe: Egg Lemon Sauce
2 eggs
1 large or 2 small lemons
1/2 cube bullion (or homemade stock)
1 – 1/2 cup hot water
1-2 tsp. cornstarch or flour

Beat eggs in a medium bowl or pot with a whisk on high for 30 seconds, add juice of 1 lemon and continue to mix well. Melt bullion cube in hot water and slowly drizzle while continuing to beat for another minute or so. Sift the cornstarch over the pot and stir well until fully incorporated. Let simmer on low for a few minutes until it begins to set up and then remove from heat. Keep in mind that as it continues to cool, it will continue to thicken. Serve the zucchinis and/or tomatoes with some potatoes on a plate and top with some avgolemono sauce, the combination of flavors are sure to knock you out of your seat!!! 

*Sorry this recipe took so long to post, but I hope you enjoy it with your family or friends and let me know how it turns out for you!

Kali Orexi,


Presvitera’s Dolmades

Traditionally Greek
I must admit first that although I took the pictures, the dolmades below belong to my mother-in-law, “the expert dolmades maker”, hence the name! Her name is not Presvitera, rather this is a respectful and endearing name to call a priest’s wife. My father in law is a Greek Orthodox priest and I had the honor of him baptizing me (My Christian name is Styliani) and marrying us – actually we had a very blessed wedding with 6 priests, our marriage is bound to last until the end of time 🙂 

The (one) time that I tried to make dolmades, the taste was good but the aesthetics were terrible, so you did not get to see my first attempt. Over Easter break, I got to learn first hand the secrets to making perfect dolmades, do not overstuff them! Apparently, I was a little too eager and generous with my rice stuffing. Lesson learned! So, now I share with you the simple, yet delicious, vegetarian stuffed grape vine leaves recipe that many Greek families consider as a staple on their tables. 

Presvitera’s Dolmades Recipe: 

Printable Recipe
1 cup uncooked long-grain rice
2-3 T. EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil)
1 medium white onion, chopped
1/4 cup fresh dill, chopped
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, chopped
1 tsp. salt
2 large lemons, juiced
1 litre chicken or vegetable stock, heated
30 grape leaves, rinsed and drained (from jar or use fresh but boil until tender)

In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, saute the onion in 2 T. EVOO for a few minutes, then add the rice and herbs and continue stirring until the onion has softened. Slowly, pour in half the heated stock and reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for another 10 minutes, or until rice is almost cooked but still very al dente. You do not want to overcook your rice, but you do want it started! Stir in half the lemon juice and remove from heat, cool until easy enough to handle.

Line the bottom of your pot with a few extra vine leaves you have so the dolmades will not burn while cooking, I try to choose the broken or unusable ones from the jar. Take one leaf, place shiny side down, and spoon 1 teaspoon (only 1 tsp. or they will burst open and not be pretty at all) or more/less according to the size of the leaf itself, but you want to easily be able to tightly fold; remember that the rice will still expand more while cooking. Fold over both sides of the leaf towards the center, and begin to snuggly roll up from the bottom to top. You may have to slightly fold the top sides even more inwards (think slight triangle) to get a “prettier” roll. It is all in the practice, so just find what works best for you! Once you have finished rolling one, place it seam side down in the pot. Repeat placing the dolmades together so as to not leave any gaps and allowing the leaves to split open. Try to stack the first layer all facing the same direction and when you begin the 2nd layer, switch the direction for a kind of criss-cross pattern; repeat until finished. Sprinkle the top with remaining lemon juice and olive oil.

Gently, pour the remaining stock just enough to cover the top layer. Place a flat weight – like a small, upside down plate – on top of the vine leaves, cover the pot, and simmer for 45-60 minutes – making sure not to boil, because this will make the stuffing overflow from the leaves. When close to the time, check one to confirm that the rice is tender, take into account that they will also slightly cook a little more while cooling down. Remove from heat, remove cover, and let cool for another half hour. Transfer to a plate/dish and serve with lemon slices and greek yogurt if you choose! It is also very “Greek” to top them with a little white vinegar and some extra salt if needed. Try it all and decide for yourself!

There are many different versions of the stuffing for dolmades, the usual contains ground beef and sometimes even fish. There are also vegetable varieties, but the simplicity of fresh herbs and rice, in my opinion, is the perfect balance of flavor and lightness!

These are great as an appetizer or even as a healthy snack! Another similar and even more common vegetable to wrap the rice in is cabbage leaves. You should first boil the leaves until pliable and then stuff, but I will try to highlight that recipe some other time! Until then, enjoy these wonderful little treats and I will be sure to post a picture of my very own dolmades now that I have the official recipe and secrets! 

Kali Orexi my friends, and I hope you have the beautiful sunshine that we were blessed with today. The birds are singing and the temperature couldn’t be more perfect! 

Vegetarian Pastitsio

Traditionally Greek
Don’t exit just quite yet if you don’t like the word, “Vegetarian”. This wonderful alternative to the classic dish, Traditional Pastitsio, is made with mushrooms and zucchini instead of ground meat, but trust me that it is still full of flavor and maybe even more addictive. If you don’t believe me, believe my Greek husband, he approved it and has already requested it again soon!

With a slightly healthier spin, this dish is still very Greek. The sauce still has a hit of cinnamon and the béchamel still has a hint of nutmeg. In this recipe, the amounts are more slight so if you prefer a bolder taste then use a little extra spice!

Vegetarian Pastitsio “Greek Lasagna” Recipe: Serves 6-8
1/2 kilo (~1 lbs.) variety of brown and white mushrooms*
1-2 medium zucchini, chopped*
1-2 medium white onions, chopped
1/8 cup EVOO
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 large bay leaf
1 tsp. Greek oregano
salt and pepper
1/2 T. tomato paste
1/2 – 1 can crushed tomatoes
 a little less than a 1/4 cup dry white wine
1 all-spice berry
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
3/4 – 1 pkg. pastitsio or bucantini noodles (substitute just penne would work too) 
1/2 – 3/4 cup Kefalotyri (Ramano or another hard cheese)
Saute onions and zucchini in the olive oil on medium heat for about 8-10 minutes, add the garlic and bay leaves and cook another 3-5 minutes, until fragrant. Add the chopped mushrooms and clove(s) and raise the heat to medium high, add the wine and tomato paste. Cook until almost all the wine has cooked off, then add the can of tomatoes, salt and pepper, cinnamon, and oregano, lower to a simmer for 15-20 minutes. Turn off heat and let rest.
*You can easily replace your veggies with anything of your choice: mixed spinach greens, eggplant, or anything you’d like, don’t hesitate to make it your own! 
Cook your noodles in a large pot of salted water until al dente, with a slight bite or firmness remaining (about 10-12 minutes).
Béchamel Sauce Recipe:
1/2 stick butter (~50-75g.)
1/2 cup AP flour
5 cups warm whole milk
4 eggs, room temperature
1/2 – 1 cup grated hard cheese (vlahotyri, romano, parmesan, ect)
salt and pepper
1/2 – 3/4 tsp. nutmeg
More hard cheese to grate on top
Add butter to a medium large saucepan and melt on medium heat. Add flour and whisk constantly until turns a warm golden brown, about 5-7 minutes depending on your heat. Continue whisking briskly while you steadily stream in your warm milk making a nice roux. Make sure you do not have any lumps, if you start to see them forming, simply whisk faster (you can use a mixer if you have a whisking beater). Now, bring to a slight boil while stirring with a wooden spoon. You want your roux to thicken but not turn into a batter. Remove from heat and cool slightly for 5 minutes. Whisk all of your eggs together and slowly stream them into your roux, mixing quickly to avoid scrambling. Now, add your cheese and seasonings.
Once everything is ready, you can preheat your oven to 190°/375° and assemble your dish. Lightly oil your small – medium baking dish and mix 1 ladle of your béchamel sauce into your veggie mix and 2 ladles into your drained pasta. Lightly oil and add enough veggie/tomato sauce (not béchamel) to coat the bottom of your dish. Then, add 1/2 of your noodles. Follow with your veggie sauce and then repeat with remaining noodles. Top with the remaining béchamel sauce and grated cheese. Bake in a hot oven for 30-45 minutes. You want your edges to be bubbly and the cheese to be golden brown. Rest at least 30 minutes before serving to help set-up and make easier to dish out and hold form!
This time, I only had less than half a package of pastitsio noodles, but I didn’t realize it until I had already started cooking. I substituted the bottom noodles for regular, flat lasagna noodles, it worked perfect; minus the bountiful pasta difference in the pictures. 

Although this dish takes a little effort and a lot of cleaning pots and pans, it is totally worth it. Make it once or twice and you will get the hang of it in no time!

It is officially Holy Week here and this is the beginning of the biggest 2 weeks of the year. Stay tuned for more info on how Greeks celebrate Easter! This is one holiday that is definitely more special in Greece.

Kali Orexi. 


Traditionally Greek
(Pronounced meh-leed-zah-no-sal-LAH-tah in case you were curious)

This is the Greek version of a popular roasted eggplant dip, but it is also very common in Turkey and other middle eastern countries, sometimes called Baba Ganoush. Regardless of the name, the basic recipes are very similar; the only difference being that ganoush also contains some tahini, more similar to hummus! Both recipes are very nutritious and a great way to add some extra vegetables to your diet!

Melitzanosalata Recipe

2 large eggplants
3 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 medium-sized cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup quality olive oil
1/2 cup Italian parsley, chopped
salt & pepper

Preheat the oven to 400° F or if you have a grill available, preheat your grill.  Wash your eggplants and then use a fork to prick the eggplants evenly all over.  Place them on a baking sheet and bake for 30-40 minutes, turning about every 15 minutes or so; if you are grilling, they will naturally cook faster. You want your eggplants very soft to the touch and somewhat wilted, the longer you roast them, the smokier the taste will become.  Remove and drain on a paper towel if needed.  Let cool until they can be handled.  Cut them in half and scoop all the insides out or remove the skin with a sharp knife, then add the soft, roasted inside into a food processor or roughly chop if you prefer chunky dip.  Add minced garlic and lemon juice.  Pulse a few times to combine.  Continue to pulse while adding a steady stream of olive oil.  Stir in parsley, salt and pepper. This is a simple recipe that should be altered to your taste, simple add more lemon or salt as desired. 

Serve with fresh homemade wheat pitas or lightly fry them for a crunchy chip like pita. Can also serve on fresh or toasted bread! 

The alternative that you see on the right is melizanosalata with added fresh tomoato and onion, this is also very delicious and gives more of a salsa flavor!  If you are interested in a Baba Ganoush recipe instead, try this or this or this recipe from some other bloggers that I like!

Whether you choose the Greek version, melizanosalata or the Eastern version, Baba Ganoush I hope that you will enjoy the smoky benefits of extra fiber, potassium, and vitamin Bs. And just between me and you, eggplants are actually considered a fruit, like tomatoes – who knew?! 
Kali Orexi!


Traditionally Greek
Spinach with rice and fresh lemon squeezed on top . . . mmmmm! Heart healthy and oh so delicious. 
I would definitely rank this towards the top of Greek meals that are common in any family home. This is a quick, no hassle, filling, and wonderful meal to have any day of the week. Especially during Lent, this is a perfect dinner, just leave off the feta!
If you like spinach, you are sure to love this go to recipe. Boost up the fiber by using brown rice and if available always use fresh spinach! 
Spinach Rice aka Spanakorizo Recipe: Serves 2-4
1 1/2 – 2 lbs. fresh spinach or 1-2 cups frozen spinach
7 Tbs. EVOO
1 large white onion, chopped
juice of 2 lemons
2/3 cup of hot water 

1/2 cup long grain rice*
2-3 Tbsp. fresh dill, chopped
salt and pepper

* I use brown rice and I increase the water and cook time. 

Thoroughly wash the spinach until completely clean and free from grit. Drain and remove as much water as possible. Slowly saute the onion in the oil until translucent and soft. Add the rice and mix to coat with the oil, cooking for a few minutes. Add the hot water and cover for another 5 or so minutes (8-10 minutes if using brown rice), add the spinach and toss mixing in all of the rice. Add more water now if needed to cook rice longer, but be careful to not add so much it turns into a soup. Cook another 10 minutes until the rice and spinach are cooked and tender. Remove from heat, add salt, pepper, and fresh dill. Pour some fresh lemon and serve warm. If you are not fasting, this dish is wonderfully complimented by feta and a wholegrain crusty bread!

Kali Orexi. 

Clean Monday

Traditionally Greek
…also sometimes called Pure Monday is Orthodox’s beginning of Lent fasting, no meat and no cheese – basically vegan! I (personally) am going to try my hardest to participate; fasting from meat will be much easier than dairy for me. Meat here is really expensive anyway, but cheese, yogurt, milk, eggs…. what ever will I do?! 

Today there is also a special bread called “Lagana”. It is basically a flat bread topped with sesame seeds, but I am actually not so sure why it is special today. Maybe it is just from tradition, and tradition must cost a little bit extra too because this was double the price of normal bread.

Other than that, I decided to make lentils. They are a delicious, healthy, and quick soup to throw all together for a very satisfying meal.

Lentil Soup with Tomatoes Recipe:

1 1/4 cups green, brown lentils (the small variety) 
4 cups of hot water
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1-2 garlic cloves, minced
2-3 T. EVOO
3-4 carrots, cleaned and sliced
1 can crushed tomatoes
1 T. tomato puree
1 tsp. Greek oregano
1 bay leaf
1/2 – 1 tsp. cumin
1/2 – 1 tsp. hot paprika
salt and pepper

Saute the onion in the oil on medium heat until translucent, then add the garlic, stirring until aromatic. While the onion is cooking, wash and soak the lentils in hot water, rise then add to the pot with the carrots and tomatoes. Stir a few times and then add the tomato paste/puree and the herbs. Pour over the hot water and bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer and cook for another 25-30 minutes. Serve with a splash of vinegar and some good crusty bread, maybe even a few olives and tomato slices.

Clean Monday is a very fun and celebrated day. When there is good weather, families spend time all together enjoying a picnic and flying kites. This year for us the weather was cold and almost raining, so we just enjoyed our family time and wonderful day off inside. The Saturday before Pure Monday, and sometimes Sunday too, there are also lots of Carnival parties. “Carnival” comes from the Latin meaning, without meat. This should be a time in preparation for the coming of Easter, but throughout tradition it has become custom for people to get all dressed up in costumes and indulge in life, mostly meaning food and alcohol I think. The last days of school all the kids show up in costumes and there is a huge party, I would say that it is very similar Halloween. In celebration of the last day before Lent, my wonderful husband took me out to a traditional taverna and we enjoyed the entire restaurant to ourselves with AMAZING food. I promise you that every bite we took was a pleasure to chew, and we left so full that it was borderline sinful 🙂

Enjoy some hearty lentils next time you don’t know what to cook for dinner, your body will thank you for all of its nutrients. And if you are fasting from something, whether it be food or something else, I pray strength and patience for you each and every step of the way. Remember, you are not alone!!!

PS. The hardest thing is not going to be skipping my morning lattes, but it will be looking and gawking at all the amazing other food bloggers that I follow! Luckily for you guys, I have saved some really great non-Lent recipes for you to share over the next 40 days!!!

Kali orexi. 

Homemade Lamb Gyros

Traditionally Greek

I would say that gyros (pronounced yee-ros) are Greece’s number one fast food item, pizza, crepes, and club sandwiches following. These quick, filing, and very reasonably priced pita wraps are quite tasty too, especially when you find a busy store that makes them fresh. A typical gyro can be made with pork, chicken, or even lamb that is slowly cooked by rotating in circles (γύρω in Greek means to go around, hence the name!). The meat is cooked until crispy and then is shaved off and loaded into a pita with your choice of toppings. A Thessaloniki gyro is filled with meat, fries, onion, tomatoes, ketchup and mustard, and a common addition is tzatziki, spicy cheese, or a paprika sauce for a more intense flavor. If you do not like the crispy meat, a very common alternative is to order a souvlaki gyro. Souvlaki is pork or chicken that is skewered and grilled on an open charcoal fire. Both options are really great for an occasional on-the-go meal, but I want to share a much healthier homemade lamb gyro recipe. 

I don’t have an exact recipe to follow, but I have more of a step-by-step instruction to create a delicious gyro sandwich at home. We only had a few pieces of lamb (probably a handful, enough for 2 gyros) that I marinaded in a little beer and a couple of garlic cloves for a couple hours, this is optional. I cut the pieces into the size of a half dollar or quarter, and grilled them in a skillet with a little olive oil, salt, pepper, and Greek oregano until cooked but still tender and juicy. I then very finely chopped the lamb into much smaller pieces and returned to the pan and continued to cook until the edges became crispy. The meat process was as simple as that, no hassle yet quite delicious. The same process can be done with pork or chicken as well, and if you have a grill at home, I imagine that first grilling the meat outside would only enhance the flavor. 

As far as the rest of the ingredients go, I made the fries in the oven, you can find the fries recipe here, and the tzatziki recipe here.  Other ingredients include chopped onions (preferably purple), chopped tomatoes, and mustard and ketchup, if you want to try it the Salonica way. I also added lettuce because I love it and it adds a little extra fiber. For now, the pita recipe is soon to follow, and I must say that, the homemade wheat pitas turned out truly amazing!!! Definitely a recipe you will want to come back for. I would describe them as soft, slightly chewy, with a wonderful wheat almost nutty flavor — perfect compliment in a gyro or any other kind of wrap. Perhaps, even a great alternative to a tortilla.

Below is a close up picture of an open faced gyro sandwich and a wrapped one. The only thing I was missing was tomato, unfortunately we didn’t have any at the moment – I figured the ketchup made up for it anyway, right?! The combination of lamb and tzatziki was truly amazing, I only made two for my husband and I to split, but I would have totally eaten another if there were more, V enthusiastically agreed. I think next time I plan to make with chicken or even just vegetarian with extra potatoes sounds nice too. Mmmm… potatoes and tzatziki…

With the combination of homemade wheat pitas + skillet cooked meat + oven baked potatoes + veggies + tzatziki = you really can’t go wrong with this much healthier alternative to a typically unhealthy yet adored Greek favorite. Besides, you will want to use all those saved calories on eating another one and drinking an ice cold beer along with it, perfect combo trust me. 

Let me know how your gyros turn out next time you want to experience a little Greece from the comfort of your own kitchen!

Kali orexi. 

Beefteki, the Greek burger!

Traditionally Greek
Beefteki yemista me feta tyri, Stuffed Beef Burgers with Feta Cheese

In two weeks from Monday (yesterday) it will be Clean or “Pure” Monday (the start of Greek Lent) and this officially begins the season of fasting. The fasting ranges from extreme devotion, traditionally meaning abstaining from all meats and seafoods, dairy, and oils; moderate fasting and abstaining from either meats or dairy; and occasional fasting and refraining from your choice of something, maybe chocolate and sweets. This is technically the last week of food indulgences. Two weeks before Lent, you are urged to give up meat, and one week before, you give up dairy, this is to allow your body time to adjust. I personally am going to definitely abstain from meat and I will try my hardest to not eat dairy or oil, but the last one will be the most difficult I think. I am going to at least try to only use only olive oil and no butters, margarines, or other oils. We will see how it goes, unfortunately I have never been great at discipline and abiding by the rules. BUT, don’t worry about my recipes getting too boring, I have a few un-Lent recipes already made and waiting to be posted for you, and I plan on getting a bit more creative in the kitchen!

If you have eaten many Greek meals, this should be high on your list of favorites. Unlike the traditional American hamburger, these juicy and tender beef burgers are typically served without bread (although it is common to eat in a pita on the go). They are, however, commonly served with Greek oven potatoes The combination of meat, potatoes, and tsatziki is an unbeatable combination. 

Greek Oven Potatoes Recipe:
1-2 lbs. potatoes, cleaned, peeled, sliced
3-4 T. EVOO
1/8 – 1/4 cup broth, of choice or 1/2seasoning cube
1/2 T. garlic, minced
1 T. Greek oregano
1-2 T. yellow mustard
1-2 lemons, juiced

Heat oven to 175°/350° and prepare potatoes. Add the oil, seasonings, mustard, and juice to a large bowl and mix well. Coat the potatoes until covered and then place in a baking dish. Carefully pour the broth into the bottom of the dish, without pouring over the potatoes and rinsing the seasonings off. Begin baking the potatoes and prepare the beefteki. Let the potatoes cook for a good 20-25 minutes while you make the meat, stir the potatoes before placing the meat on top, they should be slightly tender. Continue to cook another 20ish minutes until the beefteki is cooked all the way through. Serve together immediately with purple onion, tsatziki, and fresh lemon. Amazingly delicious!

Stuffed Beefteki Recipe:
1 lb. ground beef of choice
dashes of Greek oregano and fresh parsley (and mint, optional)
1-2 slices of bread, or breadcrumbs
1 small onion, grated or processed
1 egg, beaten
1-2 T. Greek yogurt
Feta slices
Heat indoor/outdoor grill and oven to 175°/350°. Mix all together (except feta) very well by hand, making sure everything is even distributed. Divide into patties of desired size and place feta in the middle, sealing into a pocket to conceal the cheese. Grill both sides to mark the meat and seal in the juices, then move to hot oven with potatoes. 
This is not only an easy meal to prepare, but a very filling one when you have a dinner party or want your kiddos to eat a good meal! You just really can’t go wrong here, try it and let me know how much you liked it?
Kali orexi.