Continuing on with the Lenten Feast I originally displayed for you last weekend, today I’m featuring artichokes, amaranth and cuttlefish.
Cuttlefish are cousins to octopus and squid and they belong to the class of cephalopods. Much like octopus and squid, they too squirt ink, have internal organs and the shield-shaped cuttlefish bone is it’s spinal column. You’ll often fine cuttlefish bones washed up on shores and I place them in my cockatiels’ cage for beak-trimming.
Much like squid, cuttlefish have to be cooked off quickly (high heat) or slow-braised. In between doesn’t work here….they will be tough. My fish monger has these small, cleaned cuttlefish, packed at sea and frozen and quite a good convenience product. You might find the cuttlefish at your fish monger to be larger in size. If so, cut the cuttlefish into slices (rings) and this same dish will work wonderfully.
This cuttlefish dish also comes from The Greek Monastery Cookery by Archimandrite Dositheos. It’s a “Lemonato” dish, quite simple in preparation but much more complex in flavour.
(serves 4 as a meze plate)
1 kg. of baby cuttlefish, gutted and cleaned, patted dry
1 medium onion, sliced
the tops of 2 scallions, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1/3 cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
dried Greek oregano
juice of half a lemon
- Place your skillet over medium-high heat on your stovetop and add your olive oil. Add your cuttlefish and saute for 15-20 minutes and simmer until most of the water has evaported.
- Add the onions and garlic and reduce to medium. Add enough water to just cover the cuttlefish and simmer for another thirty minutes (or until tender).
- Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, squeeze the lemon juice toss in the scallion tops and sprinkle with some dried Greek oregano.
- Serve with some pickled vegetables, drizzle with some extra-virgin olive oil and serve as part of array of mezedes.
This next dish is universally eaten and enjoyed by Greeks. We call it “Vlita” and in English it is known as “amaranth”. Vlita are most commonly served alongside a grilled fish dish but they are also paired well with other seafood like octopus or cuttlefish.
Amaranth in Greece is found grown wild in the countryside of Greece. Many will trek to harvest the Spring fruits after the wet, rainy winter. Amaranth is easy to prepare, delicious side to fish and seafood, packed with iron, vitamin A, calcium and zinc.
Here I’ve served it with some steamed zucchini but the standard preparation of the amaranth is still the same..boil them down, drain, season with salt and pepper, extra-virgin olive oil and fresh lemon juice.
I’m fortunate enough to find Amaranth all year ’round at Asian or stores catering to a Caribbean clientele. Look for it labeled as “red spinach”, amaranth or “callaloo”. My original Vlita recipe can be viewed here, posted in January of last year.
Finally, here’s a Greek classic with it’s origins coming from Constantinople (Istanbul). Greeks inhabited this storied, cultural and religiously significant city for thousands of years. The Greeks of Constantinople developed a style of cooking all on their own and to this day, the impact of their dishes is felt greatly (and welcomed) in Greek cuisine.
There are many dishes containing “a la Polita” in their titles. Polita or Politica is the indication that the dish’s origins were from Constantinople. One of the most well-known from the Politiki Kouzina is “artichokes a la Polita”. Beyond cleaning artichokes, this dish is easy-peasy, very healthy, a wonderful vegetarian dish and long on flavour and remarkably filling.
I must point out that the most common appearance of artihokes a la Polita is white with the speckles of green herbs (dill). My departure here is a family favourite and version. My grandmother preferred this dish “more savoury”, preferring some tomato paste to add some colour and a flavour more appealing to all in the family.
Her wisdom was that those wanting the tartness of the dish could add a squeeze of lemon juice at the end and the othersÂ could forgo lemon if they wanted to asÂ well.
Artichokes a la Polita
12 artichokes, trimmed & cleaned
2 medium onions, sliced
4 medium potatoes, peeled & cut into thirds
3 carrots, peeled and cut into 2 in. segments
1/4 cup olive oil
1 Tbsp. of tomato paste
1 cup of frozen (thawed) or fresh peas
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup of chopped fresh dill
- In a large pot, add your olive oil and bring up to a medium-high heat. Add your onions, potatoes and carrots and cover, reduce to medium andÂ simmer for 15-20 minutes.
- Add the tomato paste, artichokes and enough water to cover your ingredients. Bring to a boil and season with salt and pepper. Cover, reduce to a simmer and cook for another 10 minutes (or until the artichokes are tender).
- Add your dill and peas and gently stir in. Take off the heat and allow the peas to cook through for a few minutes before serving.
- Serve hot with some good crusty bread and a wedge of lemon for those who like it tart.
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