My parents come from towns in northern Greece (Macedonia) that are located in the mountains but most of my time spent in Greece is near the sea. All of my relatives in Greece are on my mom’s side of the family and the majority of them live in Greece’s second largest city, Thessaloniki.
One of Thessaloniki’s specialties is mussels and a Lenten feast wouldn’t be complete without the appearance of some mussels dishes. Today I have two for you…one being deep-fried mussels and the second one is “mydopilafo” or rice pilaf.
To make both dishes, one needs fresh mussels in their shells. After I’ve carefully selected, scrubbed, debearded and rinsed the mussels, I simply steamed them in a pot with a little olive oil, just long enough to open their shells and reveal the succulent meat inside.
I now am left with the option of preparing two dishes: deep fried mussels or the mussel pilaf. Let’s tackle the deep-fried mussels first.
Now that you have steamed mussels, one simply has to pluck the mussel meat out of the shell and pat-dry before dredging in flour. Don’t throw that mussel liqueur away (broth)…that’ll be used too!
I have previously posted on how to deep-fry deep mussels and the method asks you to dredge the mussels in flour then quickly dunk them in ice cold water before dropping them in the hot oil. This is the method used by lots of seafood tavernas in Greece but there’s a simpler way that gives you the same results…without the fear of spitting oil and water making contact.Â Â
I’ve found that a 2 to 1 mix of all-purpose flour and corn flour with a couple of tablespoons of corn starch does the trick.Â For about a pound of mussel meat, mix 1/3 cup of corn and 1 cupÂ all-purpose flour, a couple of tablespoons of corn starch, some salt and pepper to taste and dredge the mussels before frying.
You’ll get the same, crispy mussel on the outside, moist & juicy on the inside.
Mydopilafo or mussels pilaf is another Thessaloniki classic which is a very liberal recipe with many takes on it. Previously I showed one approach and today, you have another one…quite easy in fact.
I combine the method of baking rice with steamed mussels to put together this suprisingly easy and delicious rice dish. Follow my method for baking rice (many have already tried it and love it), steam some mussels, toss the liqueuer (broth) into the baked rice and top the pilaf dish with some reserved mussels in their shells.
The result is a flavourful rice dish with beautiful mussels to crown the dish and the recipe can be used as a side-dish or main.
The next recipe is the olive bread. This recipe also appeared last year during Lent and you can view the details here. You will need all-purpose flour, pitted sun-dried olives (Throumpes), sauteed onions and some rosemary.
This olive bread is wondeful with a Fassoulada (bean soup), as a snack or featured as “the bread” for the table. I can’t imagine Lent without a few loaves of olive bread filling the home with the aroma of Spring.
Finally, a new potato recipe. This recipe comes from a cookbook that arrived just last week, in time for Lent. It’s a Lenten potato salad from the “Greek Monastery Cookery” , writen by Archimandrite Dositheos.
This book is packed with Lent-friendly recipes that can appeal to a wide audience of people looking for a leaner, healthier die. I will not cut out meat from my diet but I have cut down my meat intake and this book offers many delicious vegetarian and seafood options for the person with a eye towards a healthier diet.
The next time you make a potato salad, why not bake or steam the spuds with their skins on? You’ll retain more of the nutrients and if the potato skins are clean enough, you can eat the skins too (like me).
In future posts, I will be sharing more wonderful recipes from Archimandrite Dositheos but in the meantime…enjoy his potato salad for Lent.
Potato Salad for Lent
8 medium potatoes, well washed
2 tomatoes, sliced
3 Tbsp. of crushed walnuts
2 Tbsp. of chopped fresh parsley
extra-virgin olive oil
dried Greek oregano
1 Tbsp. of capers
handful of pitted Kalamata olives
salt and pepper to taste
- Steam or bake your potatoes until just fork tender. Peel and slice the potatoes and arrange them on your platter. Season with some sea salt, sprinkle with walnuts and oregano.
- Cover with the tomato slices, season again lightly with salt and garnish with the capers, olives, cracked black pepperÂ and parsley.
(for those following a strict Lenten diet, omit the olive oil).
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