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Food

Lagana and Eggplant Spread to Enjoy

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 strict fasting, but oil can be used on days when oil is allowed during Great Lent.

Lagana

5 cups bread flour, plus extra for kneading

1 package instant dry active yeast

2 cups warm water

1/2 cup Greek extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for coating

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon Greek sea salt

Sesame seeds, for topping

In the mixing bowl of a stand mixer, stir together the warm water, yeast, and sugar, and allow it to rest for 5 minutes until foamy. Add the flour, olive oil and salt and mix with the dough hook attachment. Add additional flour, if the dough is too wet. Continue kneading with the dough hook until a smooth, pliable dough forms. If preferred, finish kneading by hand on a lightly floured surface for about 5 minutes.

Brush the inside of a large bowl with about 2 tablespoons olive oil. Transfer the dough to the oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and allow to rest for an hour to an hour and a half in a warm spot in the kitchen until the dough doubles in size.

Transfer the risen dough to a lightly floured work surface and cut in half. Knead and form a large rectangle with each half. Place on parchment paper-lined baking sheets and poke with fingertips all over the dough to make the traditional appearance of the lagana. Cover the plastic wrap and allow to rest for the second rise, about 30-40 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. After the second rise, brush with olive oil, sprinkle with sesame seeds, and bake in the preheated 400 degree F oven for 30-40 minutes, or until lightly golden brown.

After baking, allow to cool and serve with the olives of your choice and a variety of spreads, if preferred.

Eggplant Spread with Walnuts

2 medium-sized eggplants

2/3 cup shelled walnuts

2-3 garlic cloves

2/3 cup Greek extra virgin olive oil

2-3 tablespoons red wine vinegar

Greek sea salt to taste

Wash and pat dry the eggplants. Leaving the stems intact, roast the eggplants under the broiler, about six inches away from the heat source. Turn occasionally so that the eggplants roast evenly. Allow the skins to char all around and the eggplant will be tender when it is ready, test by giving a squeeze while wearing an oven mitt. Transfer the roasted eggplant to a cutting board and allow to cool slightly before removing the pulp. Cut the eggplant lengthwise, down the middle and scrape out the pulp with a knife, leaving the stem and charred skin on the cutting board. Place the walnuts and garlic in a food processor and pulse a few times to make a paste, then add the eggplant, olive oil, vinegar, and salt to taste and pulse until well combined.

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