by Sava

Well, really, who knew? Lots of people, I’m sure, but I never realized that in Greece, the week preceding Lent is called “Apokreos”, which like its French counterpart,”Mardi Gras”, means without meat. It is Carnival, a celebration full of festivities, parties, and masquerades before the fasting of Lent. In Latin the roots of the word Carnival have the same meaning – ‘carne’ is meat and ‘vale’ goodbye. During this week all meat in the house is consumed and the following Sunday, Cheese Fare Sunday, all the cheese, butter and eggs are also eaten. The next Monday begins the long forty day fast before the joyful Easter celebration. No meat, fish, milk, butter, cheese or eggs are eaten during this time until Easter Sunday. Carnival traditions have remained strong in many communities through Greece, but the Patras Carnival, on the Peloponnese, is the largest event of its kind in Greece and one of the biggest in Europe. So with this in mind, you can see we are left with shellfish and primarily vegetarian dishes.
One of the classic favorites in our family is:

Gigantes Plaki or Baked Giant Beans Serves 6

This recipe is from our cookbook and is savory and delicious.

Preheat oven to 325 F

2 14 oz cans butter beans, drained                                                                               2 c chopped onion

2 c chopped celery                                                                                                              1/2 c olive oil

2 large cloves of garlic, chopped                                                                                   2 bay leaves

2 14 oz cans diced tomatoes                                                                                             1/2 t each salt and pepper

2 c shredded carrots                                                                                                            1/4 c chopped flat-leaf parsley

Pinch of sugar

Heat the oil in a sauce pan and saute the onions and garlic until translucent. Add the tomatoes, carrots, celery, bay leaves and seasonings and cook about 10 minutes. Put the vegetables into a large shallow baking pan and stir in the beans. Cover and bake in the oven for 1 hour until all vegetables are soft. Occasionally check the pan and add hot water if needed. Add parsley and stir before serving. This is great with feta cheese sprinkled on it, too.

I will post additional Lenten/vegetarian recipes soon, as well as our recipe for roast lamb before Easter. Please leave comments below and I will respond as soon as I see them. Thanks!

See you next time……….yassou!

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Dan March 15, 2012 at 4:17 pm

Mmmmm…I love those beans. The flavor and texture are simply great and i am a meat and potatoes guy! Did not know about Carnival in Greece either….


Sava March 15, 2012 at 5:02 pm

Hi Dan, I know those are your favorites. Maybe cause they go so well with meat and potatoes!! Yassou!!


Georgia Cone March 18, 2012 at 4:56 am

Hello! Another great lenten dish from our cookbook is Artichoke Stew,or in Greek ,Anginares a la Polita, which means Artichokes in the style of THE city which referred to Constantinople,THE city!!
Yia mas!


Sava March 18, 2012 at 12:27 pm

Hi Jo! Yes, I might be posting that one next! There are so many Greek recipes that are vegetable based. No wonder “The Mediterranean Diet” works!! Yassou!


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