Monday, December 21, 2015

"Christmas Around The World" Day--9 Recipes --“Herb-Crusted Pork Tenderloin” & “Greek Spinach Pie”

Gifts of time and love are surely the basic ingredients of a truly Merry Christmas. - Peg Bracken

Welcome to the 9th day of “Christmas Around The World!” For my readers who are new, everyday for the next 3 days, till Christmas Eve, I will post a story of a country of the world and a Santa that goes according to the countries customs and traditions. Besides the World Santa’s, I will also share a holiday treat, a homemade gift idea, or just a favorite recipe that I think goes with that country, all leading up to “Christmas Eve.” This has been an incredible year! I have met many people, learned many new things, but most of all, I want to say thank you to my readers, as we prepare for the most joyous time of the year!

Day # 9, My country today is Greece!

On Christmas Eve, children, especially boys, often go out singing “kalanda” (carols) in the streets. They play drums and triangles as they sing. Sometimes the will also carry model boats decorated with nuts which are painted gold. Carrying a boat is a very old custom in the Greek Islands. If the children sing well, they might be given money, as well things to eat like nuts, sweets and dried figs.

Christmas Trees are popular in Greece. But an older and more traditional decoration is a shallow wooden bowl with a piece of wire is suspended across the rim. A sprig of basil wrapped around a wooden cross hangs from the wire. Some water is kept in the bowl to keep the basil alive and fresh. Once a day someone, usually the mother of the family, dips the cross and basil into some holy water and uses it to sprinkle water in each room of the house. This is believed to keep the “Killantzaroi” (bad spirits) away. The Killantzaroi are meant to appear only during the 12-day period from Christmas to Epiphany. (January 6th) They are supposed to come from the middle of the earth and get into people's house through the chimney! The Killantzaroi do things like putting out fires and making milk go off. Having a fire burning through the twelve days of Christmas is also meant to keep the Killantzaroi away.

Every December, in Aristotelous Square in the city of Thessaloniki (which is the second biggest city Greece) a huge Christmas Tree and three masted sailing ship are put up. It's a popular tourist attraction. Going to a Midnight Mass Service is very important for most Greeks. After the service people can go home and end their Advent fast.

The main Christmas meal is often Lamb or Pork, roasted in an oven or over an open spit. It's often served with a spinach and cheese pie and various salads and vegetables. Other Christmas and New Year foods include “Baklava” (a sweet pastry made of filo pastry filled with chopped nuts and sweetened with syrup or honey), Kataifi (a pastry made from a special form of shredded filo dough and flavored with nuts and cinnamon), Theeples (a kind of fried pastry). The pastries are either eaten for breakfast or as starters. Another popular Christmas dessert are melomakarono, egg or oblong shaped biscuit/cakes made from flour, olive oil, and honey and rolled in chopped walnuts.
A traditional table decoration are loaves of “Christopsomo” (Christ's Bread or Christmas bread). It's a round sweet bread which is flavored with cinnamon, orange and cloves. The top is decorated with a cross. The bread is made on Christmas Eve ready to be eaten on Christmas Day.

“Christopsomo" Bread
In Greek Happy/Merry Christmas is “Kala Christougenna.” In Greece, presents are often brought to children by Aghios Vassilis (Saint Basil) on January 1st.

People in Greece also celebrate Epiphany on the 6th January. In the Greek Orthodox Church, Epiphany celebrates Jesus baptism when he was a man. It's also known as “The Blessing of the Waters.” There are many events throughout the country where young men dive into really cold lakes, rivers and the sea to try to be first to get a cross which has been blessed by a priest and thrown into the water. Whoever gets the cross first is meant to have good luck during the coming year. Epiphany festivals also include blessings of boats & ships, music, dancing, and lots of food.

"The Blessing Of The Waters"

My recipe for today is a Greek tradition, which is eating pork. So I have a fabulous dish called, “Herb-Crusted Pork Tenderloin.” I think that you will love this very simple and outstanding roast. This meal is ideal for a dinner party, Christmas, or any holiday, as tenderloins are quick to roast and easy to serve.

Herb-Crusted Pork Tenderloin

Serves: 6
Total time: 1 hour and 5 minutes

2 pork tenderloins (about 3/4 lb each)
1 cup soft bread crumbs (about 1 1/2 slices bread)
1/ 4 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons chopped fresh or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1 tablespoon olive or vegetable oil1
2 teaspoon salt
1/ 2  teaspoon fennel seed
1/ 4 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

Heat oven to 450°F. Spray shallow roasting pan and rack with cooking spray. Place pork tenderloins on rack in pan. In small bowl, mix remaining ingredients. Spoon herb mixture evenly over pork. Insert ovenproof meat thermometer so tip is in the thickest part of pork. Cover pork loosely with foil. Bake 20 minutes; remove foil. Bake uncovered 10 to 15 minutes longer or until thermometer reads 155°F. Cover pork loosely with foil and let stand 10 to 15 minutes or until thermometer reads 160°F. (Temperature will continue to rise about 5 degrees and pork will be easier to carve)      

Greek Santa

My next recipe for this country is called a “Greek Spinach Pie.” I love a good spinach pie. I always order this dish when I eat at a Greek restaurant. I love the flaky crust and the rich, warm, spinach filled inside. I hope that you enjoy this recipe as much as I do!

Greek Spinach Pie

Serves: 8

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 small yellow onion
1 clove garlic
1 cup cottage cheese
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1 tsp ground nutmeg 

1/2 Tsp salt
10-15 cranks fresh cracked pepper
2 large eggs
16 oz. frozen cut spinach
1 sheet (8 oz.) puff pastry
2 Tbsp flour for dusting
1 large egg (for glaze, optional)

Preheat the oven to 375°F degrees. Dice the onion into small pieces and mince the garlic. Cook both in a small skillet with 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat until soft and transparent (about five minutes). While the onions and garlic are cooking, prepare the rest of the filling. In a bowl combine the cottage cheese, Parmesan cheese, eggs, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Mix well. Before adding the spinach, strain it in a colander and press out as much moisture as possible (squeezing handfuls in a fist works well too). Once the onions have softened, add them to the cheese/egg mixture along with the squeeze dried spinach. Stir until well combined. Dust a clean work surface with flour and unfold a sheet of puff pastry onto it. Using a rolling pin, roll the puff pastry into a 12 inch by 12 inch square. Drape the rolled dough over a standard 9 inch pie dish. Spread the spinach filling evenly inside the pastry lined pie dish. Fold the corners of the pastry back over top of the filling. It’s okay if they do not fully reach to meet each other. If desired, brush a whisked egg over the top (this will give the surface a glossy appearance after cooking). Bake the pie for 45 minutes in a preheated 375°F degree oven. Allow the pie to rest for about 5 minutes before cutting to allow the filling to set.

****Notes :Allow both the puff pastry and frozen spinach to thaw in the refrigerator over night.

Recipe from:

See you on Day # 10...

Till Next Time………………………….

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