Artichokes and Other Lenten Delights

img_3065-1Continuing 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.img_3048

Cuttlefish Lemonato

(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

water

salt and pepper to taste

dried Greek oregano

juice of half a lemon

  1. 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.
  2. 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).
  3. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, squeeze the lemon juice toss in the scallion tops and sprinkle with some dried Greek oregano.
  4. 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. img_2857-11

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.img_3071

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 others  could forgo lemon if they wanted to as  well.img_3073

Artichokes a la Polita

(serves 4)

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

water

1 cup of frozen (thawed) or fresh peas

salt and pepper to taste

1/2 cup of chopped fresh dill

  1. 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 and  simmer for 15-20 minutes.
  2. 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).
  3. 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.
  4. Serve hot with some good crusty bread and a wedge of lemon for those who like it tart.

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 autho

© 2007-2009 Peter Minakis

© 2009,
Peter Minakis

. All rights reserved.

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38 Comments for “Artichokes and Other Lenten Delights”

says:

Visiting your blog lately has been like visiting a Greek buffet! So many choices! Great writeup on the “a la Polita”…I’ve learned something today. And I love your grandmother’s wisdom!

says:

Your descriptions and photo’s make me want to try everything! You have a gift… sure wish I were there trying it all! ;-)

says:

Coming here is pleasant surprise I am waiting for:) love the artichokes. I’ve never had cuttlefish before. & how awesome is it to have a treasure of a family who loves to cook.

says:

Wow, those are some amazing dishes! Love the artichokes and cuttlefish looks very interesting, I’ve never cooked with it, but definitely would like to try soon. I love Greek flavors, so glad to have found your blog.

says:

All the dishes look really good – I am loving the artichoke a la Polita, it has all of my favorite ingredients in it.

says:

Pedro… you know that artichokes are my Achiles heel!!!! What a delicious recipe :D. I’m seeing some artichokes in my counter soon ;D

says:

Peter, that photo on your header makes me smile every time it pops up. It’s really transporting.Can you tell me where it is in Greece?

says:

The artichokes got my vote this time, Peter. Sadly I have never cooked it, ut that flavors on that plate looks so inviting!!!

says:

The artichoke dish looks fabulous! I could eat artichokes daily but I can’t seem to get the hubby to do the same, so more for me, right? I need to try this version soon.

says:

I havent had cuttlefish in ages. I like it just as you prepared it.And the artichokes look wonderful. Noramlly I only have them marinated, but this sauce works for me.

says:

I can’t help but hone in on the artichokes as well. I like your grandmother’s take on the dish and I think that would work even better to please a crowd. Beautiful!

says:

My yiayia made something so similar to this when I was young, but at the time the only way I went near it was to clean & peel her artichokes :) I’ll have to give it a try now that I know I like chokes!

says:

That “a la polita” should be called “a la paula” because I want it NOW! That amaranth reminds me so much of a bitter green that we used to eat with olive oil and garlic. Gosh, the name escapes me now. I’ve never had cuttlefish, but I’m willing to give it a try! *sigh* I really want some a la paula!

says:

I like that cuttlefish dish! I ususally cook mine for a long, long time, though — like an hour or more. I’ve found that they are just too chewy-rubbery if eaten earlier. Do you like that texture, or am I getting old cuttlefish, or does freezing them make them tougher? Thoughts?

says:

Hank, these are small, baby cuttlefish and the 30 minutes or so for this dish was suffice.

Anyone who’s relayed their wisdom on cuttlefish, squid and octopus say freezing actually tenderizes.

The frozen product I get up here is quite good. Cheers!

says:

I’ve never had cuttlefish but everything you make, makes me want to try it! Lovely colours and pictures Peter.
I really like your artichoke dish with the onions, carrots and potatoes – Mmmm YUM!

Yiayia Vicky

says:

My favorite Greek food is probably Anginares ala Polita so I can’t wait to try your version of anginares.
I just wish it was a bit easier to clean the darn things.
I’ll try these soon.

says:

I’ve always found the idea of cooking with fresh artichokes slightly intimidating. This looks like the perfect recipe to overcome that fear — so hearty and delicious. Thanks, Peter!

Amy

says:

I have simmering a pot of this right now for tonight’s dinner. My boyfriend’s mother made this stew in her kitchen in Athens when I visited a couple of years ago. I’ll never forget how delicious it was and am looking forward to trying this one!