Monday, March 2, 2009

Kathara Deutera (Clean Monday)

Kathara Deutera (Clean Monday) symbolizes the start of Lent for Orthodox Christians and is an important day in the Greek Orthodox faith. A day that prompts us all to eat simple, very traditional Greek fare, Kathara Deutera is meant to cleanse the body and spirit in preparation for Easter and is one of the many celebrations leading up to this important holiday that help us carry on precious customs and traditions passed down from generation to generation of Greeks found all around the world.

On this day, my family--as most Greek families--begins the Great Fast for Lent. As such, we enjoy simply prepared meals following Lenten restrictions: no meat, fish or any other products derived from animals with red blood (milk, cheese, butter, yogurt, eggs, etc.). A typical meal on Kathara Deutera will include such dishes as taramosalata, calamari, octopus or shellfish, salads, baked beans, rice-stuffed grapeleaves, lagana (a flatbread eaten only on this day) and halva (usually Macedonian Halva). We carry this fasting through this first week of Lent and, depending on the individual, fast either from everything described above or just from meat and fish for the full 40 days leading up to Easter.

I am excited to begin these posts and share with you all the traditions and customs we partake in. In essence, these spiritual days are highlighted by the food we eat and share with others and I look forward to writing about some of the dishes we enjoy through Lent and onto Easter: the Lazarakia we bake on the Saturday of Lazarus; the bakaliaro and skordalia (salt cod and garlic dip) we gratefully eat on Palm Sunday; the fried sweetbreads, fried liver and the traditional Patsa (tripe soup) we break the Fast with once the clock strikes midnight and Holy Saturday gives way to Easter Sunday; and finally the Mouri (oven-baked, stuffed whole lamb--a vibrant tradition of Kalymnos) we celebrate Easter Sunday with.

Here's a peek at some of the simple Lenten dishes our family will share today.
Kali Sarakosti!

(Note: I grew up not eating olive oil in dishes on Clean Monday, but as the years pass I've come to realize that the taramosalata or the lagana we purchased from stores likely were made with olive oil. One can easily substitute sunflower oil/margarine wherever possible.)

4 tablespoons tarama (carp roe)
2 to 3 thick slices bread, soaked in a little water
1 large potato, boiled
1 small to medium onion
1 lemon, juiced
4 to 5 tablespoons oil (sunflower or olive oil)
Red wine vinegar, to taste

Combine tarama, bread, potato, onion and lemon in a food processor and pulse to puree. Slowly add the oil to create desired thickness. Stir in the vinegar to taste.

Gigantes Plaki
1 lb. large lima or butter beans, soaked in cold water for 12 hours (water changed once during soaking)
1/4 cup olive oil
2 onions, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
14 oz. chopped tomatoes
3 tablespoons tomato paste
2 cups water or vegetable broth
1 small bunch parsley, roughly chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Pre heat oven to 350 degrees. Heat the oil in a dutch oven and saute the onions until soft. Stir in the garlic and saute a minute more. Add the chopped tomatoes, tomato paste and water; bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer. Stir in parsley, salt and pepper to taste.

Cover the dutch oven and place in the oven. Check the beans occasionally and add water as needed. Cook for about an hour covered, then remove lid and cook the beans for 45 minutes to 1 hour more until soft and creamy (don't stir, the top should brown a little). Let cool and serve warm or at room temperature, drizzled with a little more olive oil and sprinkled with chopped parsley.

Roasted Red Peppers
6 large red bell peppers, rinsed and patted dry
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
Olive oil
Black peppercorns

Line peppers up on a large baking sheet. Place under the broiler and cook until the skin is charred on all sides (keep the broiler slightly ajar so that the broiler flame works continuously).

Once cooked, place peppers in a large bowl and cover with a plate or plastic wrap until cooled. Once cooled, take peppers and gently pull at top stem to loosen. Slice pepper open if necessary to remove any seeds. Peel skin off pepper. Place in clean jars and fill with oil, vinegar, peppercorns and garlic slivers. Let marinate a day or so in the refrigerator and then serve.

Agginaropita (Artichoke Pie)
Recipe from Kalogiriki Mageiriki--Ieras Monis Tatarnis
10-12 artichokes, cleaned and boiled until just tender
6 scallions, roughly chopped
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 small bunch parsley, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons dill, finely chopped
1/4 cup simigdali psilo (fine semolina)
1/4 cup and 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
Salt and freshly ground pepper
8 sheets phyllo dough

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Oil an 8-inch square pyrex and set aside. Combine the artichokes, scallions, onion, parsley, dill, semolina and 4 tablespoons of oil in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper.

Begin layering the phyllo sheets, brushing each sheet with oil and allowing the phyllo to overhang each side in order to evenly fold over the top and cover the pie. Brush top sheets with oil as well, sprinkle with water and bake the pie until golden.


Peter G said...

A great write up and selection Maria...the artichoke pie is new to me and I look forward to seeing the stuffed whole lamb...sounds delicious!

Peter M said...

Maria, again you did lots of work in prep, cooking and blogging it all...thank you!

I enjoy the Lenten dishes more than ever and you've laid out a tasty array.

Kali Sarakosti.

Lulu Barbarian said...

This is a great post, Maria, not just for food but also for religion and culture. I definitely want to try the artichoke pie. :-)

Mediterranean kiwi said...

happy sarakosti to you - your table looks beautiful, and the traditions you have in store for us sound like a treat

♥Rosie♥ said...

WOW Maria what a lovely post and so much prep and work gone into sharing with us.

Your spread looks amazing and the traditions are really lovely to learn about - thank you!

Rosie x

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your comment at my blog earlier. Your lenten dishes are so yummy! A lot of hard work! I have to explore some of your Greek recipes soon.

Hopie said...

Quite a tempting spread -- enough to make anyone want to fast ;-)

Ivy said...

Maria, everything on your table looks beautiful especially that agginaropita. Kali Saracosti.

JennDZ - The Leftover Queen said...

Everything looks so good. I am drooling here! I love all of these dishes and would be happy with any one of them right now.

The Duo Dishes said...

Really great post. We love Greek food beyond understanding. Everything looks great.

Anonymous said...

This all looks so wonderful, Maria! I have been craving gigandes BIG time, but I can never find the correct beans here. I'm going to try another store this weekend because I must have them, especially after some kathari Deftera posts I've seen!

sarah said...

I very much want to try the taramasalata recipe. I have fresh roe from fish I just took from an ice net. Can I use it fresh like this or should it be cooked/ prepared somehow?