Wednesday, 19 March 2008

How To Dye Red Eggs with Onion Skins for Greek Easter

Red eggs (in Greek: kokkina avga, κόκκινα αυγά, pronounced KOH-kee-nah ahv-GHAH) are perhaps the brightest symbol of Greek Easter, representing the blood of Christ and rebirth. We also dye eggs other colors, but rarely will a Greek Easter be celebrated without lots of red eggs. Commercial dyes are available, but this old-fashioned natural method creates red eggs with a deep rich color. The following is for one dozen red eggs. Note: It may sound counterintuitive, but the skins of yellow onions work wonderfully!

Time Required: 50 minutes + 2 hours cooling

Here's How:
1. Start with 12 medium-to-small eggs.
2. Carefully remove any material clinging to the surface of the eggs.
3. Make the dye with the onion skins: In a stainless saucepan, place skins of 15 yellow (Spanish) onions and 2 tablespoons of white vinegar in 4 1/2 cups of water and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes.
4. Strain dye into a glass bowl, and let cool to room temperature. (Don't be fooled by the orange color.)
5. In a stainless saucepan (around 8 1/4 inches in diameter), add the cooled strained dye and eggs at room temperature (up to 1 dozen). The eggs should be in one layer and covered by the dye.
6. Bring to a boil over medium heat. When boiling, reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer.
7. Dyeing time will be affected by the color of the eggs. Start checking for color at 12-15 minutes. Do not simmer longer than 20 minutes (see step 9 if they aren't red enough).
8. When eggs are the right color, proceed to step 10.
9. If eggs are not a red enough color after 20 minutes, leave in the pot and remove from heat. When the pot as cooled enough, place in refrigerator and let sit until desired color is reached.
10. Remove eggs with a slotted spoon and cool on racks.
11. When they can be handled, coat lightly with olive (or other edible) oil and polish with paper toweling.
12. Refrigerate until time to use.

1. Save onion skins in a plastic bag in the refrigerator until ready to use.
2. Do not use any porous (wood, ceramic, plastic, etc.) materials as they can be colored by the dye.
3. If stainless cookware and utensils get colored by the dye, wash with regular detergent and a small amount of chlorine. Rinse very well.

What You Need:
* Fresh uncooked eggs at room temperature
* Skins from yellow (Spanish) onions
* White vinegar
* Saucepan
* Strainer
* Bowl
* Slotted spoon
* Paper towels
* Cooling racks
* Olive (or other edible) oil for polishing

Omeleta me Aginares: Artichoke Omelet

Ιn Greek: ομελέτα με αγκινάρες, pronounced oh-meh-LEH-tah meh ahg-ee-NAH-ress

April is peak season for fresh artichokes, making this a springtime favorite, but this omelet is delicious with frozen artichoke hearts as well. This is a Greek country omelet, which means that it's a hearty pie-type omelet, packed with vegetables, and makes a filling main dish.

* 2 pounds of artichoke hearts, fresh or frozen (requires about 4 - 4 1/4 pounds of fresh artichokes before trimming)
* 4 cups of salted water
* juice of 1 lemon
* 3 tablespoons of olive oil
* 1 teaspoon of fresh lemon juice
* 1 teaspoon of sea salt
* 6 eggs + 1 tablespoon of water, beaten with a fork

To prepare fresh artichokes: Remove the coarse outer leaves and stem. Cut off the top (down to just above the choke) and scoop out the choke with a spoon. Trim off remaining leaves around the sides to leave just the pale colored heart.
Rub the artichoke hearts with lemon as soon as each is cleaned and place immediately in a bowl of cold water with half the lemon juice (to prevent them from turning black) and set aside until ready to use.
In a large pot, bring the water to a boil. Add artichoke hearts and lemon juice and boil for 10 minutes. Drain well, and cut hearts into quarters.
In a 8-9 inch nonstick frying pan, heat the olive oil over medium-low heat. Add artichoke hearts, lemon juice, and salt, and cook for 20 minutes, stirring frequently, until very soft. Pour beaten eggs over the artichoke hearts and distribute evenly in the pan. Cook for 1 minute, turn, cook for 1 minute, and turn again.

To turn: Run a spatula under the sides and bottom of the omelet to loosen. Put a plate over the top of the pan and turn the omelet out onto the plate. Slide the omelet back into the pan to cook the other side.
With a fork, spread the middle of the omelet to check for doneness. Serve hot.

Yield: serves 4

Aphrodisiacs in Ancient Greece

There were many foods and beverages consumed in ancient Greece that we might not be anxious to try today, like cheese and garlic added to wine, but no more unusual than at least one of the foods that were considered to be aphrodisiacs. When we think of bulbs, the first thing that comes to mind probably isn't "aphrodisiac;" yet, they were highly prized for their reputed positive effect on the libido.
An aphrodisiac is defined as something (like a drug or food) that arouses or intensifies sexual desire. The name is derived from Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love and beauty.
From ancient times, there have been foods that were believed to increase sexual prowess and desire, and food historians tell us that ancient Greeks were not immune to promises of improved performance and stamina, and heightened pleasure.

Hippocrates (c.460-377 B.C.E.), the father of medicine, is reported to have recommended lentils to keep a man virile well into old age, a practice followed by the Greek philosopher Artistotle (384-322 B.C.E.), who cooked them with saffron. Plutarch (c.46-122 C.E.) suggested fassolatha (a bean soup, the national dish of Greece) as the way to a strong libido, and others believed that artichokes were not only aphrodisiacs but also ensured the birth of sons.
The Aphrodisiacs

In her book "Πολύτιμες Αρχαίες Αφροδισιακές Συνταγές" (Prized Ancient Recipes for Aphrodisiacs), author Lena Terkesithou sheds light on the ancient Greek quest for virility (since the earliest references to aphrodisiacs were for men). Among the foods noted as aphrodisiacs of the times are:

Edible bulbs: Ancient Greeks believed that certain bitter edible bulbs stimulated passion. They were cooked in various ways, and eaten with “aphrodisiac salads” containing honey and sesame seeds – two other foods considered libido-boosters. Perhaps the ancient recipe was similar to this recipe for marinated bulbs that we make today.

Garlic: From the most ancient of times, garlic was believed to have magical and therapeutic properties, and was also considered an aphrodisiac. In the times of Homer, Greeks ate garlic daily - with bread, as a condiment, or added to salads. It was the main ingredient in a garlic paste (a forerunner of today’s skordalia?) containing cheese, garlic, eggs, honey, and oil.

Leeks: Ancient Greeks considered leeks to be aphrodisiac, probably because of their phallic shape. (They were also used as a diuretic and laxative.)

Mushrooms: Truffles were considered exceptional aphrodisiacs. They grew below the surface on sandy shorelines, and were rare and very expensive (just as they are today).

Onions: Like garlic, the ancients ate onions regularly. In addition to their perceived therapeutic benefits, onions were believed to be an aphrodisiac.

Satirio: Satirio is a type of wild orchid and was referenced as an excellent aphrodisiac by Dioscorides (c.40-90 C.E.), the 1st century founder of pharmacology, as well as by Plutarch in his Precepts of Health (Υγιεινά Παραγγέλματα).

Stafylinos: This was a plant that grew from seed in the wild that was believed to heighten sexual desire, so much so that it was known as a "sex potion."

Is It or Isn't It?

Mint: Hippocrates believed that frequent eating of mint diluted sperm, hindered erection, and tired the body. There was, however, the diametrically opposed opinion that mint was a very effective aphrodisiac. It is reported that Aristotle advised Alexander the Great (c.356-323 B.C.E.) not to allow his soldiers to drink mint tea during campaigns because he believed it to be an aphrodisiac.