Today is the last day of Carnival in the Greek calendar. Tomorrow will be “Clean Monday” and the start of the Great Lent. Clean Monday acquired it’s name from long ago: it was the day on which the housewives cleaned all their kitchen untensils so as to rid the last traces of the Carnival food.
Clean Monday is a preparation of Lent and old traditions live. In Greece, family and friends head to the mountains or seaside and a banquet of Lenten dishes is laid out for the taking.
Salads, seafood, olives, array of pickled vegetables, beans and potatoes are just some of the foods that regularly appear on the Lenten table. Devout followers of the Greek-orthodox calendar will follow a diet that will contain no meat or meat by products. Shellfish and other seafood with no blood are allowed and lucky for me – that means more seafood!
One the centerpieces of the Clean Monday table is the “Clean Monday” loaf or, “lagana”. It’s shaped much like a foccacia and baked with a good amount of sesame seed topping and a “must have” at the “Clean Monday” table.
It is also traditional for the the children to fly kites on Clean Monday. The kids are always accompanied by parents, aunts, uncles and grandparents but with the “kefi” or spirit lingering from the revelry of Carnival, it’s hard to tell who soars higher…the kites or the adult Greeks celebrating another feast for the eyes and belly!
Let’s take a walk around and have a peek at the array of Lenten dishes I prepared for “Clean Monday”….
Deep-fried mussels…a specialty from the culinary rich city of Thessaloniki
Baked beans or “Gigantes”…just like my grandmother made them
Mussels and rice (Midopilafo)…another specialty from Thessaloniki, Greece
Boiled Amaranth (Vlita) and steamed zucchini with extra-virgin olive oil and fresh squeezed lemon juice
Dolmades Gialantzi, the vegetarian option with just rice, fresh herbs olive oil and lemon juice
Chickpea soup (Revithosoupa), a specialty from the Greek island of Sifnos
Artichokes a la Polita, a braised artichoke dish from the city Byzantine City of Constantinople
Shrimp with lots of garlic, boukovo, olive oil, wine and parsley
Ladenia, a specialty of the island of Kimolos that pre-dates pizza
A potato salad from a new monastic cookbook I just bought
Stewed cuttlefish with onions, olive oil, oregano and lemon juice, another dish from the new monastic cookbook
A Greek Lenten table wouldn’t be complete without Taramosalata, a whipped caviar dip from carp roe (eggs)
Mom’s very own olive bread with “throumpes” olives, sauteed onions and rosemary
Octapus “Ksidato”, braised in it’s own juices and finished with extra-virgin olive oil, wine vinegar and dried Greek oregano
Mavromatakia salata or black-eyed pea salad
Here’s a closer look at the “Clean Monday” loaf, the Lagana
Braised whole octopus, dressed with Greek (Kalamata) extra-virgin olive oil, squeeze of lemon juice
A Lenten Spanakopita, just spinach, scallions and homemade phyllo
Finally, a little decadence leftover from Carnival, some boiled whole crab
In coming days, I’ll review the dishes and share the recipes with you. These and other Lenten dishes will be featured in future posts right up to Greek Easter.
I would like thank Ryan Stern and the Foodbuzz team for giving me the opportunity to present this Lenten banquet to you. It was all very last minute but I think you will agree, the result was most delicious.
I must (again) thank my mom for providing me with alot of help in the kitchen, her invaluable kitchen wisdom has made me the cook that I am and I’m the luckiest man alive to be taught by the best Greek cook…thanks mom!
If you are not reading this post in a feed reader or at http://kalofagas.ca then the site you are reading is illegally publishing copyrighted material. Contact me at truenorth67 AT gmail DOT COM. All recipes, text and photographs in this post are the original creations & property of the author.
Â© 2007-2009 Peter Minakis
. All rights reserved.