This year I’m finally going to do it, I told myself. This year I’ll go through all 40 days of Lent without a gram of meat, just like my Greek Orthodox tradition suggests. But it’s not so easy, believe me. I mean, it’s all going well, I’m already past the second week but then I find myself thinking about a big, fat souvlaki a lot more often, thinking about the chubby, meaty keftedakia my grandma used to make so deliciously and my tummy is just begging me to stop fasting and fill it up with any meaty treat that gets in my way.
You know what? No, giving up isn’t the answer. Thankfully, Greeks have mastered Mediterranean cuisine, creating and developing many meatless dishes. I’m here to talk to you about some of my favorite ones, that’ll help me (and everyone whose fasting for Lent) pass those difficult days of no meat until Holy Easter, with our bellies full and our hearts happy…
Okay, I’ll start with Fasolada, which is considered the Greek National dish (No, souvlaki isn’t it) and its my personal favorite. Fasolada is a thick, orange bean soup and its made out of –obviously- beans, chopped carrots for the sweetness, onions for the taste and some fresh tomato to give it some thickness and the characteristic orange color. It is a very cheap and easy dish to make, although trust me, no one can ever make it as good as a Greek yiayia. The taste is so simple but everything is so well combined!
Also in my top spots for traditional Greek dishes is one coming from the traditional recipes of Greeks in minor Asia, Papoutsakia, which translates to “little shoes”. But what are these little shoes? Well, they’re eggplants with fresh tomato baked in the oven. In many cases, you’ll see this dish with feta cheese sprinkled on top, but during Lent, probably you won’t eat dairy products as well. In both cases, this sweet, oily, delicious dish is sure to make you “mmmm” with every bite.
Last, I will not mention a specific dish, but a whole category of them: Pitas. Pitas are a trademark of Greek cuisine and everyone has seen at least a couple of versions of them throughout their life. They are extremely popular in Thessaly and Epirus where they make different styles and recipes, some with many layers of a thin “fyllo”, others with two thicker ones on top and bottom, with all the filling inside. Pitas are typical of the previous, poorer generations that used all the ingredients and techniques they could to feed themselves and their families. Some include fillings of rice or frumenty, others use spinach or leeks but there are also pitas made of different kinds of cheese (“tiropita” is the most popular one filled with feta cheese) or a thick layer of milk cream.
The thing is, Greek culture and Greeks passion for food has them develop a cuisine for everyone, and of course, for everyone to be on track with the Orthodox traditions. I tried to give you a summary of the ones that have a special place in my heart.
I hope you’re hungrier and inspired to cook and eat some of these delicious dishes, I know I sure am!