Bakaliaro, cod fish fritters. Photo by Alexandra Tran, via Unsplash
The celebration of Greek Independence Day on March 25th is a dual celebration as it is also the Feast of the ‘Evangelismos tis Theotokou’ or the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary, one of the twelve Great Feasts of the liturgical year and among the eight that are counted as Feasts of the Lord. Always during Holy and Great Lent, the special day is one of the feast days, along with Palm Sunday, when fish is traditionally eaten, usually in the form of bakaliaro and skordalia, cod fish fritters and garlic spread, and wine and oil are also permitted. The fish was an early symbol of Christianity, taking the first letter in Greek from the phrase ‘Jesus Christ God’s Son Savior,’ the Greek word for fish (ICHTHYS) forming an acronym. Ancient Christians used the fish symbol to mark meeting places and tombs, and sometimes to distinguish friend from foe during the times of persecution by the Romans.
Enjoy the following traditional recipes on March 25 and on Palm Sunday April 17 this year.
2 pounds salt cod
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon Greek sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
12 ounces beer
Oil for frying
After soaking the salt cod in cold water for at least 24 hours, and preferably 48 hours, changing the water 2-3 times a day, drain the cod and blot with paper towels to remove excess water. Cut the cod fish into two-inch pieces, and set aside. For the batter, in a mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, pepper, and beer. Set aside. Heat the oil in a large frying pan. Dip the cod fish pieces in the batter and fry for two minutes on each side in hot oil, until golden brown. Remove from the oil with a slotted spoon and place on a plate lined with paper towels to absorb any excess oil. Serve hot with skordalia and beets or the salad of your choice.
3 large boiled potatoes
6 garlic cloves, peeled
1/2 cup Greek extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon Greek sea salt, plus more to taste
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
In a mixing bowl, mash the potatoes with a fork. In a food processor, blend the garlic cloves with the olive oil, salt, and vinegar. A few pulses should produce a paste. Add to the mashed potatoes and stir together. Serve with bakaliaro and beets.
Beets with Dill
4-5 medium-sized beets with leaves attached
2-3 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped
4 tablespoons Greek extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Greek sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Wash the beets thoroughly in cool water. Cut off the stems from the beets and then the leaves from the stems and set aside. Cut the top and bottoms of the beets so they have two flat sides. Bring a large, deep pot of water to a boil over medium high heat and add the washed and trimmed beets. Allow the beets to boil until tender. A skewer or fork should pierce them easily. Remove the beets from the boiling liquid and add the stems and continue boiling until tender. Remove the stems and add the leaves. The leaves take just seconds to wilt in the boiling liquid, so don’t walk away from the pot at this point. If unsure about the doneness of the beet greens, taste one. Switch off the heat and use tongs to remove the beet greens from the boiling liquid. Allow the cooked beets to cool slightly before peeling. Slice the beets into one-inch pieces and place in a serving bowl. Add the cooked stems and beet greens. If preferred, cut the cooked stems and beet greens into bite-sized pieces. Add the chopped fresh dill. Drizzle with olive oil and vinegar and sprinkle with sea salt and pepper to taste. Toss and serve immediately warm or at room temperature. Adjust the seasoning and vinegar as needed.
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