A Traditional Lenten Favorite: Laganes and a Salad

Lagana. Photo by Eleni Sakellis

A favorite bread during Great Lent, laganes are traditionally eaten on Clean Monday and are cooked on a hearthstone over hot coals, but a cast-iron pan or a stove work well for present-day cooks. A relatively simple bread dough, laganes are topped with sesame seeds, though you can enjoy them with the toppings of your choice throughout Lent or any time of the year. Laganes are traditionally made without oil for those fasting strictly, but for those not keeping a strict fast, oil can be used.

Laganes

12 teaspoons active dry yeast

1 3/4 cups warm water about 115 degrees

12 cups flour, plus more for dusting

1 cup fine semolina

34 cup whole wheat flour

12 cup barley flour

1 teaspoon Greek sea salt,

14 teaspoon ground mahlepi (optional)

14 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Greek extra virgin olive oil, for brushing (optional)

Greek honey, for topping, if preferred

Water

Sesame seeds, for topping (optional)

In a large bowl, stir together yeast and 1 34 cups warm water about 115 degrees F; set aside until foamy for 10 minutes. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, semolina, whole wheat and barley flours, salt, mahlepi, and pepper. Add the yeast mixture and stir until dough forms. Transfer dough to a floured work surface and knead until smooth, about 5 minutes. Shape dough into a ball and place in a lightly oiled bowl, if using oil; cover bowl with plastic wrap and set aside until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Uncover the dough and divide into 16 portions to make individual laganes. Roll each piece into a ball. Transfer the dough balls to a floured baking sheet and cover with a damp tea towel. Allow to rest for 30 minutes. Working with one dough ball at a time, transfer to a lightly floured work surface and shape the dough with your hands into an 8-inch disk about a half-inch thick for the individual laganes. Transfer the disk to a parchment paper-lined, floured baking sheet, sprinkle with more flour, and repeat with remaining dough, placing a piece of parchment paper between each disk. Cover the disks with plastic wrap and set aside until ready to use.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Place the laganes on a baking sheet and brush with Greek honey thinned out with a little water. Bake the individual size laganes for 12-15 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm or at room temperature.

If preferred, shape into larger rectangular-shaped laganes, pressing into the dough to form the characteristic look of the bread, top with sesame seeds, if using, and bake in a preheated 425-degree F oven until golden brown.

Kale Salad

Kale. Public domain

1 bunch fresh kale

1-2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Greek sea salt

Greek extra virgin olive oil (optional)

Remove the tough stems of the kale, then rinse thoroughly in cool water. Dry the kale in a salad spinner, or use a paper towel to pat dry. Slice the kale as thinly as possible with a sharp knife. Toss in a salad bowl with a sprinkle of sea salt, freshly squeezed lemon juice, to taste, and a drizzle of Greek extra virgin olive oil, if using. Serve immediately.