Today is March 25th, the celebration of Greek Independence Day and it draws inspiration from one of the holiest days for the Greeks, the Annuciation of the Theotokos. On this day, Gabriel the archangel announced to Mary that she will bear a child.
The Bishop of Patra, Germanos sparked the struggle for Greek Independance from Ottoman rule on that day, back in 1821. To this day, cries ofÂ “Zito H Ellas” (Long live Greece) and “Eleftheria H Thanatos” (freedom or death) are still heard today.
Greeks were under Ottoman rule for more than 400 years but we resisted all attempts by the Turks at assimilation. For eight years, until 1829 when Sultan Muhammed II was under seige by Russian troops at the gates of Constantinople, Greek independance was won with the Treaty of Andrianople.
This is a mere fraction of Greece’s long and storied history. My parents, auntsÂ & uncles recall how history class was the toughest subject. Whenever I visit Greece, I’m in awe, not only of it’s sheer natural beauty or it’s warm, hospitable people.
The food and the perfect climate are natural magnets to this land of “milk and honey” but what gets me each and every time is the thought of buried treasures everywhere.
Ruins and cities buried by thousands of years. The generations that lived off the land and seas, the great people of history who walked on the land I stand on, the wars and struggles that brought Greece to where it is today and churches, graves and elderly who can still speak of this glorious past.
It’s Spring time and if you haven’t already decided on a vacation for the year, I encourage you to visit Greece. The food and drink will satiate you but the history, culture and people will change you. You will come back being a little more Greek, a little more humble and a whole lot more appreciative of the simpler things in life.
One of your best resources for investigating a trip to Greece is the Greek National Tourism Organization (GNTO). The site is available in eleven languages, offers advice on resort vacations, trips to the islands, agrotourism, conventions, historical sites and a listing of cultural events around Greece.
Toronto also boasts of having our very own GNTO office and I recently paid a visit to their offices. I was greeted by the friendly staff and although I know alot about visiting Greece, I got the sense that I had stepped onto Greek soil the moment I entered the premise.
The GNTO was also kind enough to give me a cookbook that I could give away to my readers. The book is titled, ” Greek Creative Cuisine” and this hardcover has some classics with some modern flare.
On to the dish…Bakaliaros Skordalia. This dish is served all year’ round but it’s tradtion to serve it especially on March 25th. Bakaliaro is cod fish and Skordalia is a garlic aioli, most often made with bread or potato.
As an accompaniment, I also like a plate of Vlita (amaranth) that’s boil until tender, strained and then seasoned with sea salt, extra-virgin olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice.
Traditionally, salt cod is used for this dish and at least one full day of preparation is needed where the salted cod is soaked in several water baths to extract the salt. If you don’t have access to salt cod, the other usual fish for frying like haddock, halibut or pollock will also work wonderfully here.
Bakaliaros Skordalia (μπακαλιαρος σκορδαλια)
approx. 1lb. of salt cod fillets (soaked & water changed 3-4 times until salt is removed)
1 bottle of beer
3/4 cup of all purpose flour
3/4 cup of corn starch
salt and pepper to taste
flour for dredging
sunflower oil for frying
3 Russet (starchy) potatoes
5-6 cloves of garlic, minced
approx. 1/2 cup of extra-virgin olive oil
good wine vinegar to taste
sea salt to taste
- Place your potatoes (skins on) in a pot of water that’s lightly salted. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer and cover. Boil until the potatoes are fork tender. Allow the potatoes to cool or drain and replace the pot with cold water to speed the cooling process.
- When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, peel with the back of your knife and and pass through a ricer. Add your minced garlic and mix with a fork. Pour a slow stream of olive oil while continuing to stir. Add sea salt and some wine vinegar and taste and adjust seasoning. Cover with cling wrap and set aside (or place in the fridge if making much ahead of time).
- After you’ve sufficiently soaked your salt cod, pat dry and cut into small portions. Season with salt and pepper and dredge in flour and set aside.
- Add all your dry ingredients in to a bowl and mix with a fork. Now while whisking, gradually add the beer to the flour until you get a thick batter (slightly thinner than pancake batter). Drink any remaining beer.
- Heat your oil (about 2 inches deep) to about 360F and then dip your cod fillets in the batter then place carefully into the hot oil. Fry in batches until golden brown. Place the fried fillets on a platter covered in paper towels. Sprinkle some sea salt on them, serve with lemon wedges, Skordalia and some Vlita.
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