Today is Kathera Deutera or Clean Monday in Greece. It’s the first day of Orthodox Lent, a day Greeks traditionally spent scrubbing pots and pans clean from animal fats before the Lenten fast. The fast (which prohibits meat, dairy, eggs, and some fish) is intense but I always look forward to lunch on Clean Monday. The traditional dishes–chickpea soup, fried calamari, and airy taramosalata are flavorful and filling. They make the most of very little—a hallmark of Greek cuisine.
Since we planned to spend Clean Monday at home this year, Spyros and I decided to make our own taramosalata. It’s a much-loved dip of fish roe emulsified with olive oil and white bread. Greeks spread it on bread and vegetables. I like dipping French fries or battered calamari into it; it’s like a tastier, lighter tartar sauce.
Although I’ve been living in Greece for a while, I’d never tackled taramosalta until today. It’s a simple meze but can break if the olive oil isn’t properly emulsified or become lumpy if the bread isn’t well softened. Besides, ladies who have mastered taramasalata often make it for friends’ parties and other special occasions so until now I’ve always been the lucky recipient of taramosalata.
Spyros and I started making it this morning as rain poured outside our kitchen window. First we soaked day-old bread cubes in a little water, then squeezed out the excess liquid over a strainer. It made mushy paste but a good dip base.
Then we added the tarama, which looked like this:
Tarama is the roe of mullet, carp, or cod and can be found in Greek or Middle Eastern grocery stores.
You can add some grated onions, which I did, for flavor. Then we mixed everything together and dropped in the olive oil, alternating it with the lemon juice until the dip looked like this:
Tasting a spoonful, I found it a little too salty. To be honest, I had doubled my batch and added more tarama than the recipe needed. If you follow this recipe below–my adaptation of Tessa Kirou’s taramosalata– you should have perfect results.
With that, I’d like to wish our Greek friends and philhellenes a happy Clean Monday. I hope you’ll give this Lenten staple a try!
*Adapted from Food From Many Greek Kitchens by Tessa Kiros
4 large slices of day-old white bread (about 100 G/3 ½ OZ) crusts removed
120 G (4 1/2 OZ)
2 tablespoons grated onion
1 cup light olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
- Tear the bread into cubes and place in a bowl. Pour over 1/3 cup of water and leave for a few minutes to soften. In a fine-mesh strainer, squeeze out the liquid and return the bread to the bowl. Stir in the tarama and onion.
- With the whisk attachment of an electric mixer, drop in a little olive oil then a few drops of lemon juice. Continue alternating the olive oil and lemon juice in this way until you have used all the oil and the lemon is to your liking. Chill.