Subscribe

 

Friday, August 14, 2020

Silk Road cuisine in the Pella Region

Latest articles

AHEPA protests at Turkish Embassy

Supreme President George G. Horiates joined a delegation of AHEPANS who participated in a Rally coordinated by the Hellenic Cultural Center. The AHEPA delegation...

HRF dedicates this month’s food distribution in memory of the late Chris Koutsis

On August 11th, days before the major religious holiday of the Virgin Mary, the Hellenic Relief Foundation's monthly food distribution took place at their...

Menendez and Van Hollen express concern to Pompeo over Turkey’s provocative actions

 August 13, 2020 The Honorable Mike PompeoSecretary of StateU.S. Department of State2201 C Street, N.W.Washington, D.C. 20520  Dear Secretary Pompeo: In advance of your meeting with Greek...

AHEPA’s letter to POTUS expressing concern over Turkey’s dangerous aggression towards Greece

AMERICAN HELLENIC EDUCATIONAL PROGRESSIVE ASSOCIATION    August 13, 2020 Honorable Donald J. Trump The President The White House 1600 Pennsylvania Ave, NW Washington, DC 20500 Dear President Trump: On behalf of...

Christos Koutsis, Vice President of Investors Bank, has passed away

Christos John Koutsis, 63, of Paramus, formerly of Athens, Greece, passed away on Saturday, August 8, 2020. Christos worked for Investors Bank, in Short...

My parents own property in Greece

My parents own property in Greece, but I do not know if they have the right documents to prove their property rights. Also, I...

Justice for Cyprus (PSEKA) mourns the passing of Demetrios Zemenides (1942-2020)

In Memoriam Demetrios Zemenides  1942-2020 The International Coordinating Committee – Justice for Cyprus (PSEKA) mourns the passing of Demetrios Zemenides, one of its long-time collaborators in Chicago.  The...

“We think of globalization as a uniquely modern phenomenon; yet 2,000 years ago too, it was a fact of life…” ― Peter Frankopan, The Silk Roads: A New History of the World

Dionysos Orma Restaurant, Loxandra Restaurant, The View Cafe Food-Bar (Tzibaepi Taverna) and the Courtyard Cafe at Hotel Hagiati: four restaurants in the Edessa/Pella Region that serve classic Greek cuisine … or is it just Greek?

The name itself, the Silk Road, conjures romantic images of camel laden caravans, vast desserts and colorful markets where merchants speaking dozens of languages hawked the wealth of the world. That was fairly close to the truth.

Although camels are not still commonly used, the business connections made over 2,000 years ago remain. The Silk Road was a commercial system of trade routes from the Orient to the Eastern Mediterranean, not one trek. Dozens of ancillary routes spun off a major artery into the Indian subcontinent, the Arabian Peninsula and Eastern Europe.

Dionysos Orma, Edessa

Thanks for reading Hellenic News of America

Location, location, location…

Goods from lumber to saffron streamed through Thrace and Macedonia in mutual trade with Asia for both internal consumption and distribution to other markets. The region’s borders were a natural gateway for the Balkans. The Agora of Pella in Central Macedonia built by Alexander the Great (c.300s B.C.E.) was the largest marketplace in the ancient world. The port city of Thessaloniki was founded in this era to take advantage of Silk Road trade.

When the Romans built the Via Egnatia, after they expanded their empire (c. 100s B.C.E.) it linked the Adriatic Sea with Thessaloniki and continued to today’s Istanbul. The modern toll-road, the A2, nearly parallels this Roman road. The Silk Road has simply morphed in form.

roast eggplant in olive oil (origin of eggplant is India)

It would be unrealistic to imagine that millenniums old contacts among diverse cultures and geographies could not have major impacts on food. Reality has been that Alexander himself brought Pella Region cherries from Asia. Zucchini, potatoes and tomatoes have nothing to do with the Silk Road but are New World vegetables not available in Europe until the 16th century.

It’s common for the menus to proudly print that all products used in restaurants are sourced local. More than two millenniums later the principal occupations of Central Macedonia are still in agriculture – peaches, cherries, cotton, tobacco, wine, grains and animal products. Four restaurants provided diverse samples of Silk Road ingredients in Central Macedonian regional cuisine.

Dionysos Orma, Edessa

Dionysos Orma, Edessa, Mr. Tassos Avramidis (center) photo descriptions from top left clockwise

Batzo – sheep or goat milk cheese served with spicy tomato marmalade from central and western Macedonia

Giant beans slow pan cooked with tomato and herbs.

Fried Zucchini with taziki sauce. The zucchini, like all squash, originates in the Americas. However, the varieties of squash typically called “zucchini” were developed in northern Italy in the second half of the 19th century generations after the introduction of cucurbits from the Americas in the early 16th century.

Kavourma – a casserole with traditional salami (of beef, ham and pork) potatoes, peppers and herbs served warm. Kavourma has many variations as a fried or sautéed meat dish in Silk Road cuisines.

Kormos – a popular and simple comfort food dessert with layers of biscuits and chocolate garnished with coconut.

Pumpkin spoon sweet (in a spiral) stays crunchy because it’s under ripe before cooking.

Tsobleki ­– in its simplest form, this is a dish of usually red meat in tomato sauce slow cooked in its clay pot (a “tsobleki”).  Dionysos Orma’s is a traditional Edessa recipe using veal and adding potatoes, courgettes, eggplant, red roasted peppers, mushrooms, tomato sauce and feta cheese.

Vine leaves over veal with lemon, feta cheese and dill. Sun dried vine leaves have an intense flavor and when hydrated are free of the salty brine of bottled leaves.

Retsina & aged tsipuro

to drink…

A premium Retsina (yes there are premium vintages of this ancient wine!) Resin, especially from Apleppo, has been used since ancient days to seal oxygen out of porous clay amphorae to extend a wine’s life. Wines from Thrace and Macedonia were distributed through the Silk Road.

By the 3rd century barrel making was common throughout the Roman Empire. The exception was the eastern regions, which became the Byzantine Empire, where resin continued to be used to seal the barrels or directly flavor the white wine. A new generation of Greeks are now discovering a new generation of retsina.

Tsipouro has been the poster child of thriftiness for centuries. This simple distillation of the must – the left overs after grapes have been pressed for wine – has been popular with Greek monks and moonshiners ever since. Now it has entered the premium spirits realm – aged tsipouros are available. The brandy-like aromas vary depending on type of barrel used and previous use of the barrel. The Katsaros Family tsipouro has been in smoky scotch whisky oak barrels for five years.

Loxandra Restaurant, Giannitsa

Loxandra Restaurant, Giannitsa. Mrs. Soso, owner, sitting in the greenhouse-like dining room. (photo descriptions from top left clockwise)

Moussaka is an eggplant or potato-based dish common throughout the Middle East, the Hellenic world and the Balkans with many local and regional variations. The Greek version includes layers of meat and eggplant topped with a béchamel sauce – Loxandra’s had a particularly thick, creamy béchamel topping. The eggplant is a child of the Silk Road. First cultivated in northern India, it’s widely used.

Taziki sauce – classic cold Greek yogurt and cucumber accompaniment to Dolma and other dishes.

Fried cheese with raspberry jam. For me it could be a dessert!

Eggplant cooked with tomatoes and herb. Of course, the tomato, so commonly used in Greek cuisine, is classic New World and did not enter Greek cooking until the 17th century but that does not stop this from being a beloved preparation.

Roast sheep with lettuce. The Silk Road encouraged “head to tail” consumption.

sun dried grape vine leaves

Dolma with rice. Dolma is a family of stuffed dishes common in Mediterranean cuisine and surrounding regions including the Balkans, the South Caucasus, Central Asia, and the Middle East.

Zucchini stuffed with meat topped with delicate avaglomono sauce. Variations on this lemon egg sauce have been around forever.

Salad with pomegranate seeds. The pomegranate originated in Persia and northern India and has been cultivated since ancient times throughout the Mediterranean region. It’s probably as important in Greek mythology as it is tasty in its many Greek uses.

Wine – lunch was accompanied by a fruity but dry Pella region red by Ligas Winery, similar to a Beaujolais.

 View Food-Bar (Tzibaepi Taverna), Klisokhóri

View Food-Bar (Tzibaepi Taverna), Klisokhóri . (central photo: restaurant view of Edessa ) photo descriptions from top left clockwise.

Shopksa salads are common to a southern Balkan/Northern Greek table. The mild sheep milk cheese, most likely grated sirene, was perked up by a napping of balsamic vinegar. Of course, every dish with tomatoes is post 16th century since it is an American fruit.

The local freshwater trout is as Greek as they get. The Edessa/Pella region has an abundant supply of fresh water streams from the surrounding mountains. Simple, with slabs of grilled potatoes.

Delectable dishes of roasted eggplant with olive oil and fried cheese are popular small plates.

Roasted local mushrooms from the Pella region’s Black Forest. Greece’s forests, especially in the north, have 150 edible mushroom varieties.

Savory beef in tomato sauce – slow cooking…relaxed dining.

Grilled Potatoes – the potato was brought to Europe from South America in the 16th century and has never lost its popularity.

Aegean Sea fried fresh anchovies. Despite the lush mountains and valleys of Central Macedonia the abundance of the Aegean is never far away. These are like savory french fries.

Fried feta cheese with lemon.

Courtyard Cafe at Hotel Hagiati, Edessa

Hotel Hagiati’s Trahana Soup

The Hotel Hagiati in the historic medieval Verosi district has an intimate courtyard cafe open to the public well into the evening. Breakfast, complimentary for guests, is available as well. Both the interior lobby and the courtyard comprise the cafe.

Besides local breads, jams from local fruits and classic phyllo pies there are regional specialties. The Hagiati’s Trahana Soup is an ancient product of the Silk Road and still common throughout the region.

Agrozimi Traditional Food Products

Kostas Martavaltzis, Agrozimi

Centuries after its creation as a convenience food to take on Silk Road caravans and keep at home as a staple, Trahana is still being made. The origins of this sourdough or regular breadcrumb-like food is part of the Silk Road’s history.

Kostas Martavaltzoglou is GM and 3rd generation of family owned Agrozimi, makers of traditional Greek grain products since 1969. Trahana is one of their products.

Culinary history is human history and too rich to quibble over words such as “authentic.”  All recipes are regional – even to a village or a family. For Central Macedonia and the Edessa/Pella Region it was all about location on the fabled Silk Road.

 

When you go: Edessa is an easy 55 miles (90 k.) west of Thessaloniki. It’s possible to drive, take a train or travel by intercity couch bus. Pella Archaeological Site and Giannitsa are within 25 miles (40 k.) from Thessaloniki. Both are on the (Silk) route between Thessaloniki and Edessa.

What to do in the Edessa/Pella Region? At home with Alexander: Edessa and Pella

Where to stay: Hotel Hagiati is Medieval Macedonia in Edessa

Special thanks: Edessa Municipality, Edessa Tourist Information Center and Pass Partout Tourism Marketing for facilitating my visit.

Travel with Pen and Palate to Greece and the world every month in the Hellenic News of America.

Looking down on Klisokhóri & the Loggos Valley from the View Food-Bar (Tzibaepi Taverna)

The copyrights for these articles are owned by the Hellenic News of America. They may not be redistributed without the permission of the owner. The opinions expressed by our authors do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Hellenic News of America and its representatives.