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Delicious Recipes from Western Greece

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(Photo by Eurokinissi/ Yiannis Panagopoulos)

Tampakali features locally grown beans and zucchini, some garlic, some tomatoes and spices. If you're a vegetarian or a vegan, this is the one for you. It's Greece on a plate.

This traditional recipe hearkens back to the days when people lived off the land, growing their own fruits and vegetables and cooking exclusively with those natural, seasonal fruits and vegetables. This extremely healthy way of eating is the basis of the Greek diet. Tampakali was a typical meal cooked during the summer months, when all the ingredients are available, in season, and locals would take it with them to eat in the fields during the long days working on the farm.

Tampakali

1 pound boiled beans

1/2 cup Greek extra virgin olive oil

2 red onions, grated

3-4 garlic cloves

1 large yellow squash or zucchini, grated

6 fresh bay leaves, or 2-3 dried bay leaves

Ground cinnamon, to taste

Greek sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

2 tablespoons tomato paste

2 cups water

Heat about half the oil in a large deep pot with a lid over medium high heat. Add the grated onion, garlic and cook until fragrant. Add the remaining oil, the cooked and drained beans, and the grated squash or zucchini. Continue cooking, adding the bay leaves, cinnamon, salt, pepper, and tomato paste. Add the water and cover the pot (traditionally sealed with dough around the lid so that the steam does not escape). Bring to a boil over medium heat and simmer for 45 to 60 minutes.

Kagiana with Tsigaridia (Eggs and Tomatoes with Salt Pork)

6 eggs, beaten

2 pounds ripe tomatoes, grated

4-5 tablespoons Greek extra virgin olive oil

A pinch of sugar

5 ounces feta cheese, crumbled (optional)

Greek sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil over high heat. When the olive oil heats up, add the grated tomatoes, a pinch of sugar, season with salt and pepper and stir. If you are using feta cheese, be careful with the salt. As soon as the tomato sauce comes to a boil, turn the heat down to medium and cook for 10-15 minutes, until most of the juices have evaporated.

Pour in the beaten eggs and stir with a wooden spoon, so that the ingredients combine as you would scramble eggs. Cook until the eggs are cooked. Feel free to add any kind of herbs you wish, like Greek dried oregano, basil, mint, or fresh dill.

Top with the feta cheese and serve, while still warm, with bread and tsigaridia, recipe follows.

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(Photo by Eurokinissi/Christos Bonis)

Tsigaridia

1 pound pork belly

2 tablespoons Greek extra virgin olive oil for frying

Juice of 1 lemon

1 tablespoon Greek dried oregano

Greek sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Rinse the pork belly in cold water. Using a sharp knife, remove the thick pork skin on the one side, or have the butcher remove it for you. Cut the pork belly into 1-inch cubes. Heat the olive oil under medium heat, and add the pork cubes. Fry until cooked-through and golden brown, about 10 minutes. Stirring occasionally. Just before they're ready, add the salt and pepper, oregano, and lemon juice. Stir to combine well. Remove from heat, and transfer the cubes to a plate lined with paper towels to soak up any excess oil. (without taking much of the oil with you). Serve hot with kagiana or with fries and tzatziki.

Stroto is a type of baklava made traditionally for engagements and weddings in Ilia in Western Greece. The phyllo dough, the walnuts, and the sweet taste symbolized the sweet, fertile beginnings, but also the continuation of the couple's sweet, new life together.

In the past, the women would roll out homemade phyllo dough and each sheet of the 8-10 that would be used in the recipe would be oiled and sprinkled with a mixture of finely chopped walnuts, sugar, cinnamon, cloves, bread crumbs, and a drizzle of olive oil. In the pan, the stroto would be scored into diamond shapes and then baked in a wood-burning oven. After baking until golden brown, honey syrup would be added to soak into the stroto. Today, store-bought phyllo is used, one sheet at a time sprinkled with the same filling. The phyllo is rolled up around the filling, then it is cut into pieces of equal size which are transferred to a baking sheet, and baked in the oven until golden. Syrup is then poured over the baked pieces of stroto in the pan and set aside to soak up the sweetness.

Stroto

Εθνικός Κήρυξ

Stroto is a type of baklava made in Ilia in Western Greece. (Photo: Andrew McMillan, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

1 pound store-bought phyllo dough

For the filling:

2 cups finely chopped walnuts

2 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 cup fine, plain breadcrumbs

1 tablespoon Greek extra virgin olive oil, plus additional for brushing

For the syrup:

2 cups honey

2 cups sugar

2 cups water

1 (2-inch) cinnamon stick

4-5 whole cloves

In a mixing bowl, stir together the ingredients for the filling- the walnuts, sugar, cinnamon, cloves, breadcrumbs, and 1 tablespoon olive oil- and set aside. To make the traditional version, brush a 13 by 9-inch baking pan with some olive oil and place the first sheet of phyllo in the pan and brush lightly with olive oil, sprinkle with some of the filling, then place the next sheet of phyllo, brush with oil and repeat the sprinkling with filling, until 8-10 sheets of phyllo are used brush the top layer with some of the olive oil and score the stroto into diamond shapes. Bake in a preheated 350-degree F oven until golden brown about 30-40 minutes. While the stroto is baking, prepare the syrup by bringing all the ingredients to a boil in a large, deep pot, and then simmering for about 5 minutes. Remove the cinnamon stick and the whole cloves from the syrup and pour the syrup over the stroto right after removing it from the oven. Set aside while the stroto absorbs the syrup. Allow to cool completely before serving.

To make the modern version, prepare the filling as above, then take one sheet of phyllo dough, brush lightly with some olive oil, and sprinkle some of the filling, about two tablespoons, evenly over the phyllo. Roll up the sheet and cut into equal-sized pieces. Place the rolled up pieces, seam side down, in a baking pan and continue with the remaining phyllo sheets until all the filling is used up. Bake the stroto, make the syrup, and soak the stroto in the syrup as above. Cool completely before serving.