Week of Greek: Menu for a Greek Vegan Feast!

We made it through a whole week of Greek food with 2 Broke Vegans! Is everyone sitting back in elastic-waist pants now, rubbing your bellies? In case you missed a taste of this or that, scroll down to see each course. Just click the picture and you’ll be taken right to the recipe.

Beer Bread

Beer Bread

Tahinosoupa (Tahini Soup)

Tahinosoupa (Tahini Soup)

Lahanosalata (White Cabbage Salad)

Lahanosalata (White Cabbage Salad)

Dolmadakia (Stuffed Vine Leaves)

Dolmadakia (Stuffed Vine Leaves)

Spanakopita (Spinach Pie)

Spanakopita (Spinach Pie)

Soutzoukakia (Greek Meatballs)

Soutzoukakia (Greek Meatballs)

Fasolakia (Stewed Green Beans)

Fasolakia (Stewed Green Beans)

Yemista (Stuffed Vegetables)

Yemista (Stuffed Vegetables)

Halva (Semolina Sweet)

Halva (Semolina Sweet)

And don’t forget to read up on Where to Buy Greek Imports!

Thanks again to my co-hosts at 2 Broke Vegans for helping us feel at home in the beautiful country of Hellas, and a big thanks to everyone that joined us at the table 🙂 See you on the next trip!

Week of Greek: Shopping

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Now that we’ve had fun cooking together all week, maybe you’d like to know where you can purchase some of the ingredients used in the recipes. Pretty much every ingredient can easily be found in grocery stores in most parts of the US (and of course Greece!). Not sure about other countries, but the ingredients are very basic. That said, it sure would be nice for Greece if we bought Greek imports when available. Now some regular grocery stores, like Meijer and H-E-B, will carry at least a few imports. But in some areas, you may need to seek out a Mediterranean or European market.

Krinos and Optima Foods are two of the biggest importers in the US.
Another brand that comes to mind is Arosis, I bought some of their dried gigantes in Greece and now see they’re available in the US. You can even find them on Amazon.
And of course you can always look for products with Greek writing on them 🙂 When you see a product labeled, “Greek xyz,” check to see if it’s made in Greece.
I’ve never seen a Mountain Tea (sometimes called Mountain Herb or Wild Tea) that isn’t imported from Greece. It’s actually a very beautiful herb, usually sold still on the stem and with little blossoms, although in Greece I found it in tea bags.

Here you will find A List of the 25 Best Greek Olive Oils of 2015, as awarded by the New York International Olive Oil Competition (yes, that’s a real thing!). There’s even a key that shows if the oil won a gold or silver medal. Click on the picture of any oil you’re interested in to read a more detailed description and find out where it can be purchased.

Here is A List of Some Vegan-Friendly Greek Wines from Barnivore.com

I also found a wonderful list of brick and mortar Greek markets in the US and Canada over at The Greek Vegan, many of them also have websites, some that you can order products from.

Keep watching Oh She Cooks on facebook because I’ll be sharing the last Week of Greek recipe from 2 Broke Vegans sometime today! And tomorrow I’ll post the whole lineup of recipes in case you want to cook up a Greek feast for family and friends!

Week of Greek: Halva (Semolina Sweet)

For our last course in our delicious Greek meal, I offer you these cute little halva cakes. Now, there can be some confusion as the name halva, or halawe, can also be used to describe an Arabic dessert made with tahini paste. It is altogether different! In this case, I’m talking about the Greek sweet made with fried semolina. There’s no baking for this dessert, it’s all done on the stovetop.

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I had a lot of fun with this one, not only making it, but serving it along side the bottle of ouzo my brother and I picked up in Greece – and those shot glasses are also from our trip! They gray ones are a beautiful reminder of our time on Tinos, a little island known for its marble resources (among other things).

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When the semolina mixture has cooled, you can press it into a fancy bundt pan, or cupcake tin, or pretty much anything it won’t stick to. I went with the cupcake tin because it makes the perfect individual serving size.

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The little cakes are soft, sticky and sweet, with plenty of cinnamon. The raw walnuts offset the sweetness just a little.

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Nearly every restaurant in Greece provided a drink and something sweet at the end of the meal, free of charge. Sometimes it was as simple as fruit and a shot of raki, other times a pastry or ice cream and maybe a glass of wine. I think those Greeks are on to something, it’s the perfect ending to a meal – although halva with coffee would also be a wonderful way to begin the day, if you ask me.

Halva
1 C oil or melted margarine
2 C semolina
1 tsp cinnamon (or to taste)
2 1/2 C sugar (or less, to taste)
4 C water
optional: raw walnuts*

Put water and sugar together in a pot and boil for 10 – 15 minutes. Meanwhile in a large pan, combine oil and semolina and cook at medium high heat stirring continuously until the semolina has browned. Stir in cinnamon. Now very carefully add syrup to semolina – it will really start to bubble and steam up! I added mine slowly, stirring it in a little at a time. Continue to stir, and cook at medium heat another 5 to 10 minutes, or until the semolina becomes very thick. Remove from heat. Once cooled, press the semolina into a bundt pan or cupcake tin. Unmold the halva and, if desired, top with finely chopped walnuts.

Makes 10 – 12 cupcake-sized servings

*I soaked my walnuts for a few hours, then drained them and sprinkled them with just a touch of sugar and a shake or two of cinnamon before garnishing the halva. You can also just use plain old chopped walnuts, or press one whole walnut or pecan into the top of the halva for a simple embellishment.

Although this is [probably] my last recipe for Greek Week, please stay tuned to my facebook page where I will share one more recipe from my co-hosts, 2 Broke Vegans. Tomorrow I will also provide you with a list of Greek brands to be on the look out for during your Greek cooking adventures! And please, if you are feeling charitable, consider giving a gift to the people of Greece through International Orthodox Christian Charities. Thanks to the Jaharis Family Foundation, each dollar you donate will be matched.

Taverna on the Water
Now sit back and enjoy the view, sip your ouzo and savor the halva. I’m going to take a stroll along the beach. See you tomorrow!

Week of Greek: Tahini Soup (Tahinosoupa)

If you’ve been around here a while you know I adore tahini, so it’s no surprise I have worked it into the first course of our week-long Greek meal! Tahini Soup is a traditional Lenten recipe – fast, cheap, good for ya, no frills, and SO easy to whip up a huge batch for the whole family, or to share with neighbors and friends.

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There are many variations if you search online, but I chose to go with the great Tselementes on this one. In this very old cookbook, he writes that peanut butter may be used since it is so difficult to find tahini in stores. I’m glad that’s not the case anymore! In my local Middle Eastern market there must be at least half a dozen varieties of tahini to choose from.

Another fun thing about these old cookbooks I used, they measure things out in teacups!

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Any small pasta will do for this recipe, you could even break up spaghetti or angel hair pasta, and some recipes use rice. Just keep it simple.

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It looks very Lenten, doesn’t it? But don’t let the plain looks deceive you – this soup has a surprisingly wonderful flavor thanks to the nuttiness of the tahini. It was *almost* cheese-like.

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Mumra and I did add a bit of this beautiful, chunky pink salt and a touch of black pepper, but only because we are food snobs and wanted to fancy it up. Tahinosoupa is filling, nutritious (thanks to iron-rich tahini, which also provides a little calcium), and budget-friendly.

This gave me an idea. What if we ate Tahini Soup for dinner every day for one week, how much money would we save? We could take those few dollars and donate them to the IOCC, and the Jaharis Family Foundation will match our donation to help the people of Greece! To read more about what the IOCC is doing in Greece, CLICK HERE.

Tahini Soup
4 1/2 C water + more for sauce
salt to taste
2 C small pasta (I used occhio di pernice)
2 tsp tahini per serving

Boil water salted to taste. Add pasta to boiling water and cook until done, according to instructions. DO NOT DRAIN.
In each serving bowl, mix 2 tsp tahini with just enough additional water to reach a mayo-type consistency. Spoon pasta and its broth into each bowl, and stir to combine with tahini sauce.

Makes several large servings, or TONS of 1/2 C servings!

If you want the soup to be less ascetic, you may wish to add:
Pepper
Garlic
Nutritional yeast
Sliced green onion
A bit of turmeric to make it beautiful
Bulk it up with beans (another dirt cheap ingredient!)

Feel free to use gluten free pasta. Be sure to enjoy!!!

And check out our 2nd course: White Cabbage Salad (Lahanosalata)

Feast of the Deposition of the Sash of the Theotokos

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On August 31, the Orthodox Church commemorates the Deposition of the Sash of the Theotokos. I’m thinking of my time in Tinos today because this is the Feast Day of Chrysanthi’s church, and she invited me to come back and celebrate with her.

From OrthodoxWiki, on the Dormition:

According to Orthodox Tradition, Mary died like all humanity, “falling asleep,” so to speak, as the name of the feast indicates. She died as all people die, not “voluntarily” as her Son, but by the necessity of her mortal human nature which is indivisibly bound up with the corruption of this world. The feast was added to the Roman calendar in the seventh century as the Dormitio. In the eighth century, the title was changed to the Assumptio (Assumption).

The Apostles were miraculously summoned to this event, and all were present except Thomas when Mary passed from this life. She was then buried.

Thomas arrived a few days later, and desiring to see her one more time, convinced the others to open her tomb. Upon doing so, the Apostles discovered that her body was no longer present. This event is seen as a firstfruits of the resurrection of the faithful that will occur at the Second Coming of Christ.

According to Holy Tradition, during her transition to heaven the Theotokos gave her handmade belt to the Apostle Thomas. The belt has had many homes throughout the years, but is currently kept at Vateopedi Monastery on Mt. Athos.

I don’t know if it’s true, but I was told the relic was brought to Chrysanthi’s church one year for the Feast Day. I wonder if it was the actual belt, or one the belts made by the monks and blessed with the original sash and a special prayer. Anyway, I thought I would post a few pictures of the church Chrysanthi built.

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This was at the top of our driveway, across the street from the house we stayed in.

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I’m told she locked the iconographer inside until he finished 🙂

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I imagine this little church was very full today, and now the entire village of Triandaros is celebrating together. I hope I can be there for it next year.

cruising around Tinos

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Well, since my camera’s out of commission and I’m still waiting on the new one, I spent lots of time going through pictures and videos from my trip to Greece. There’s no cooking involved in this video, but the plants with yellow flowers you can see everywhere along the road have beans growing on them. Good enough, right?

Pleurotus mushrooms, and tomato salad

I started this post way back at the beginning of our Grecian vacation, but never got around to posting it once we started checking out all the local food. This is a meal I made in our adorable little kitchen at Peach House.

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At the grocery store in Tinos, doesn’t it look so much prettier than those metal and plastic buffet-style bulk olive things in the US?

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I just thought these bottles of corn oil were the cutest.

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I ended up forgetting to use those capers, and I’m glad. I’ll tell you about it later. Maybe.

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This garlic was the best I’ve ever had. Ever. It was so fresh we weren’t even sure what it was. It had soft skin like the inner layers of an onion, the stem was extra long. When I peeled it back, I had to run to EM and have him touch it! It was bright white and gorgeous.

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So, I de-stemmed the mushrooms, chopped some onion and finely chopped the beautiful garlic. It smelled so good.

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Sauteed the onions & garlic in the wonderful olive oil from our gift bag.

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The hard bread, normally used for dakos and also from the gift bag, was broken into bits and set aside.

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Once the onions were soft, I added the Pleurotus mushrooms and let them cook on low for a while to soak up the flavor. Meanwhile…

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I started our salad by smashing some garlic.

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I love to smash things.

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Mince!

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Add garlic to olive oil.

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Add freshly-squeeze lemon juice. I used the whole lemon. The thing actually was crushed to bits in my hands which I found pretty weird, but I liked that I smelled of lemon afterwards and for the rest of the night.

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Whisk to emulsify.

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Lovely tomatoes.

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Chop, and toss into the dressing. Stir to coat. I left them to soak while I finished the mushrooms.

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In go the breadcrumbs, then I turned up the heat in a failed attempt to brown the mushrooms – should’ve used a bigger pan, I guess. But they did firm up a bit.

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The only other ingredient in our salad was the lettuce. Had I known then that a real Greek salad never has lettuce in it, I would have done something totally different! But. This isn’t a Greek meal, it’s just a meal made in Greece.

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And it looks nice, anyway.

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And here it is with a spoon.

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And here it is on our very colorful table. I miss our little house : (

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I loved the mushrooms, even though I didn’t know yet how awesome the ones at ΤΑ Κουμπαρακια would be. But when EM to his first bite, he got an unpleasant look on his face. He hated it. Turns out I left part of a stem on one of the mushrooms, and the stems are bitter and pretty gross. So don’t do that. According to him, the whole rest of the meal was good…I’m pretty sure he would tell me if it weren’t. Anyway, I liked it! Might try making the mushrooms again this weekend, but I will char them.

Ta Koumparakia: food & friends

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Okay, I think this is about all I can squeeze out of Ta Koumparakia until I have a chance to go back someday. If I were living in Thessaloniki, this would be my Little Africa – the restaurant I have to post about each time I visit. But I have to say, it might be more interesting to post about Ta Koumparakia because, besides the great food & service, you also have this amazing view.

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You can just make out the neon lights of the restaurant on one side behind the church, and graffiti on the other.

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The restaurant is so neatly tucked behind the church, you could almost miss it. And that would be a real shame!

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And as I mentioned before, the outdoor seating is so near to the church, you could almost reach out and touch it.

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Of course the food is very important. As far as I know, bread is served with every meal at every Greek restaurant in Greece. But every else we went, that was it – just bread. But at Ta Koumparakia you also get this wonderful red pepper spread. EM and I practically fought over it the first time we had it.

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The potato salad is phenomenal, with just the right amount of lemon. The potatoes were almost creamy somehow from the olive oil and just about melted in my mouth.

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I believe these are the same kind of mushrooms I bought at the grocery store in Tinos (recipe coming soon), and oh how I wish I would’ve known then what I could have done with them. Grilling them gave them a nice meaty texture, and the fresh lemon really brought out the charred flavor. I could eat these every day.

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I could go on and on, so just take my word for it: The food is awesome. You can’t go wrong. Lots of choices for vegans, and according to the guys, all the non-vegan stuff is great, too. I’m sorry I didn’t take pictures of the desserts, but I’m told they were delicious as well – EM’s favorite was the chocolate cake with orange flavor. I’m sure he was thrilled none of the desserts were vegan!

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But that’s still not the most important part. The very most important thing, as far as I’m concerned, is the excellent service and the way the family treats you like…well, kinda like family. DT put in a good word for me (“she is gourmet chef with a blog” – aw shucks!) and guess what?

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They let me check out the kitchen!

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They even put on a show for me so I could get a great picture. Hey, maybe those are my mushrooms getting charred : )

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So we made some friends, and I hope we’ll keep in touch and see other again someday not too far from now. Until then, Ta Koumparakia will be my inspiration whilst I experiment with Greek cuisine (once I get out of this little rut I’m in – so depressed at the thought of cooking for myself, I just want Greeks to cook for me…and we have not one single Greek restaurant in town!!). Thanks, Christos and Vicki (and family)!