Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Taramasalata - Lenten Greek Caviar Spread

Taramasalata, (tahr-uh-muh-suh-lah-tuh) is spread traditionally made from taramas, the salted and cured roe, caviar, of the carp. The roe is mixed with either bread or potato, lemon juice and olive oil. It is often called ‘poor man’s caviar’…. a specialty of Greece and other Mediterranean countries.

This creamy spread is a favorite of ours during Lent and
is a tradition of my family to serve it on Christmas eve. My hubby’s Mom made it every year since she and her husband enjoyed it on a trip to New York in a Greek restaurant in the 60s. She has been making it ever since. So have I once becoming part of this family. I love it as an appetizer or meze. We invite guests to try the tarama on a crispy piece of bread before I tell them what’s in it! They are not disappointed. Serve it with red or yellow peppers, lower in carbs.

You can find jars of ready made taramasalata. I prefer making my own. I buy the tarama at Stamoolis Brothers in the Strip in Pittsburgh. You can find carp roe caviar at most Greek or Middle Eastern markets.

Today I made it with wheat bread for the first time. Turned out just fine….and better for you!


4oz fish roe (4 Tbs)
8 slices day old bread, moistened with enough water to be soggy
Juice of 2 lemons
1 small onion, chopped
1 1/2 c olive oil or vegetable oil

Remove the crusts from the bread and squeeze the water from it. In a food processor, combine the bread with the roe and blend well. Add lemon juice and onions and process again. Gradually add in the oil, like you do when making mayonnaise until it is light and fluffy, pale pink in color. Depending on how much water was in the bread, you may not have to use all the oil. Makes about 3 cups. You can cut the recipe in half. Serve with crackers, raw vegetables or olives
Ingredients: Remember to buy just the tarama, not taramasalata!

Monday, March 14, 2011


Kad je supa, jest ćemo skupa!!! That’s what my old Kum used to say to us! When there’s soup, we eat together.

While this soup (is it a supa or a čorba?....thick enough to be a čorba, but containing no roux) does not come from any of my ancestors, it was derived by me from necessity. With the Lenten season upon us, we Orthodox Christians refrain from eating meat, eggs and dairy products. I will be posting mostly Lenten foods until the arrival of Pascha ( Easter).

It is a different take on the classic chili recipe. This hearty soup, thickened with the addition of barley, will satisfy the biggest of appetites. Use whichever beans that you prefer. Same with the diced tomatoes…..plain or with green chiles added……it doesn’t matter!


• 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
• 2 cups chopped onion
• 1 cup diced carrots
• 2 cups diced celery
• Chopped jalapeno or banana pepper * optional
• 1 cup chopped red bell pepper
• 2 tablespoons chili powder
• 2 cans sliced mushrooms
• 2 (28 ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes with liquid, chopped or mixed*
• 1 (15 ounce) can kidney beans, semi-drained
• 1 (15 ounce) can white, black or Northern beans
• 1 (15 ounce) can whole kernel corn, drained
• 2 tablespoons chili powder
• 2 tablespoons cumin
• 1 1/2 tablespoons dried oregano
• 1 1/2 tablespoons dried basil
• 1/2 tablespoon garlic powder
• ¾ cup barley cooked in 4 cups water for ½ hr, drained, rinsed if too starchy
• 1 tablespoon fresh chopped cilantro
1. Heat the oil in a large pot or dutch oven over medium heat. Cook and stir the onions, celery and carrots in the pot until tender. Add peppers and spices. Continue cooking 5 minutes, or until peppers are tender.
2. Mix the mushrooms into the pot. Stir in the tomatoes with liquid, beans with or w/o liquid, kidney beans with or w/o liquid, and corn. Season with cumin, oregano, basil, and garlic powder. Add drained cooked barley. Simmer on low heat for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Extra water may need to be added if it get too thick. Top with cilantro just before serving.
Some of the interchangeable ingredients
Enough soup for a day or two!!!

Christians should make every effort to fast as well as they can, in secret, so that God would see and bless their openly with a holy life. Each person most do his best in the light of the given ideal.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Rizogalo – Greek Rice Pudding

Rizogalo, (pronounced rezo-GAH-LOW, and roll that ‘R’) is creamy thick custard like Greek dessert. This recipe originated from an old cookbook of mine from 1957 from the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Charleston, South Carolina. It has been modified by me throughout the years. I love the addition of golden raisins and orange peel. They are both optional.

It’s a great way to use leftover rice. Turn leftovers into creamy goodness! This gives me a chance to show you all some of the beauty of the Greek Islands from our vacation a few years back

1 cup uncooked rice
2 ¼ cups water
½ tsp salt

2 cups milk + ½ cup milk
1/3 cup white sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1 cinnamon stick
Zest of ½ orange (or lemon)
1/2 cup golden raisins
1 Tbs butter
1 Tsp vanilla

Cook rice in deep saucepan, covered, in salted water until water is absorbed and rice is done. Remove from heat. This makes 4 cups of cooked rice.

Mix 2 cups of milk and 1/3 cup sugar together and pour back into rice with cinnamon stick and simmer over medium heat until thick and creamy (15 to 20 min) Half way through I add the orange zest.

Stir remaining ½ cup milk and 2 beaten eggs together ( I pour this through a fine strainer) and return to pan stirring constantly until mixed. Add raisins, butter and vanilla. Cook for a few minutes more.

Serve warm or cold. I garnish it with whipping cream and a dash of cinnamon.
Serves 6 to 8

Warm and yummy!
Typical restaurant on the island of Mykonos
View from our fabulous hotel terrace, Vencia Hotel

Spectacular view of the Caldera in Oia!


Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Gibanica – Serbian Cheese Pita – Pita sa sirom

Gibanica (pronounced GHEE-ba-nee-tza or Gi-BAN-itza) is also known as cheese pita. This is a recipe for slano pita (salty). It is served as an appetizer or mid-meal, as in our family during holiday meals. There are sweet gibanicas which I will post at a later date.This savory cheese filled pie is popular throughout Serbia, Croatia and Bosnia, where it is called Cheese Pita (pee-ta)

You can make this in a 9x12 pan, a round casserole pan or on a large sheet pan with individual rolls. Our family loves the crisp end pieces so we roll them like a log using 3 sheets of filo with filing down the middle, minus the water. This is the way my hubby’s Baba Jovanka made them. I started crumpling them because that was the way my Teta Seka did it… there is no set way to do it!

On my bucket list is to make filo from scratch and hand pull the dough as my mother-in-law does it. That’s another blog post for another time. Besides, my nails are too long to attempt it! Please take a few minutes and watch this village lady make hand rolled pita…truly an art!

So beautiful and delicious songs are made about it!
Volim Majko Sirom Pitu

1 package filo (phyllo) dough
2 cups feta cheese, crumbled
1 cup sour cream
1 cup ricotta or cottage cheese, mashed well
½ pound finely diced or shredded Brick cheese, optional
4 tablespoons of sparkling mineral water
4 eggs, separated
½ stick melted butter

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Beat egg whites and set aside

Any round or rectangular pan will do, preferably glass.

Grease the pan with oil or melted butter. Lay 4 sheet of filo into the dish, covering all edges, letting some of the filo hang over the sides. Brush each layer with some melted butter.
• As always when working with filo sheets, cover them with a damp towel so they will not dry out*

Remove four filo leaves, brushing with butter, setting them aside for you to use as a top, ensuring you have enough dough. (Use scissors to trim them into a circle if you are using a round pan).

• Stir together yolks, feta, sour cream and ricotta or cottage cheese and brick. Stir in the mineral water. Gently fold egg whites into mixture

Carefully dunk a sheet of filo into the mixture. Gently crumple it and place it into the pan accordion style. Repeat until all the filling is used. DO NOT get discouraged if the filo sheets break in the mix. Just scoop them out. If you have any leftover filling, just pour it around the pan. Place the ‘lid’ on top. Fold the overhanging filo back over the top. You may place a few extra leaves on top, as they will protect the rest from burning. They can be removed if they get too dark (we love to eat those pieces)

Bake at 400F. for approximately 45 minutes until the top is dark golden brown.

Serve warm or cool.
• Reheats beautifully in a 350 degree F oven for 8 to 10 minutes in tinfoil.
• If you have a plate big enough, you can invert the finished pita onto a plate. They serve it this way in shops that sell pita. I saw it flipped into a pizza box to sell it whole in a Serbian store in Niagrara Falls.


Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Serbian Bean & Sauerkraut Soup – Grah i Kupus

Every eastern European country has their version of this soup. Jota, Kupusnyak, Grah i kupus, Kupus i Grah….whatever… is delicious!  My Dad used to make this for us when he had a day off from the mill.  He was a great cook!  My Teta would serve it with diced potatoes in it.  I’ve done it with potatoes when my version came out too salty, as the potatoes would absorb some of the salt.  Just depends on the sauerkraut and how well you rinse it. My Baba used to serve it with a side of polenta.
I save the hocks and less desirable pieces of our roasted Christmas suckling pig, Pečenica, and freeze them for soup making during the winter months.  Smoked hocks can be purchased at any supermarket near the bacon section.  I load up on smoked ribs whenever I can find them.  Use bacon if you can’t find any. 

Serbian Bean & Sauerkraut Soup – Kupus i Grah
1/2 lb. dried pinto beans, cranberry or kidney beans  (may use more)
2 smoked ham hocks
1 lb. smoked pork ribs
12 to 15 cups water
2 bay leaves
4 cloves garlic, smashed, but whole
2 lbs.  sauerkraut, drained
1 lb of kielbasa (optional)
3 potatoes, peeled and chunked (optional)
Few splashes of Liquid Smoke (if you have no smoked meat)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Wash the pinto beans and soak them overnight in about 1gallon water.  Sort and clean the beans and transfer them to a large pot or Dutch oven with 1 gallon water. (Or if you forget like I usually do, use the quick soak method.  Cover beans with water, bring to a rapid boil, shut off the heat, cover for an hour and drain and rinse.)  Add water, ham hocks, pork ribs, bay leaves and garlic and bring to a boil again, skimming off any foam that may arise to the top. Rinse sauerkraut thoroughly in a colander. Drain sauerkraut and add to pot with beans Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for about 2 to 3 hours until beans are tender, adding more water, if necessary.
Clean meat off of bones and return to soup. Discard bay leaves before serving.  Prepare the roux for thickening and flavor of the soup.  Don't skip this step.

Zafrig (roux)

  • cup oil or bacon grease
  • 1 large onion
  • cup flour
  • ½  tsp paprika
Prepare the zafrig (roux). Use equal parts oil to flour. Saute onion in oil or bacon grease in large skillet until translucent. Add flour, salt, pepper and paprika (for slight color), stirring to prevent burning, until zafrig starts to brown (5 minutes maybe). Remove from heat and pour over soup. Add 1 cup cold water into pan, scrape bottom, stir until thickened and add to soup. Mix well and cook for another ½ hour or so.  This soup thickens when refrigerated because of the ham hocks and only GETS BETTER the next day.  We like to serve ours with finely chopped raw onion on top.

    Soaking the pinto beans

    Smoked pork hocks

    Smoked pork ribs

    Yum.....better the next day!