SFOUGGATO WITH ASPHODELS (ΣΦΟΥΓΓΑΤΟ ΜΕ ΑΣΦΟΔΕΛΟΥΣ)

asphodels 

  • Sfouggato literally means ‘resembling a sponge in texture’. The word is derived from the ancient Greek spoggia σπογγιά (also Attic sfoggia σφογγιά) = spoggos = sponge. The word spoggia is the source of the Latin sfongia in the Apicius’ recipe ‘Ova sfongia ex lacte’ (sponge eggs with milk). This Roman sponge- egg dish seems to be the forerunner of the Byzantine sfungaton and modern Greek sfouggato, names for an omelet. Beaten eggs are fried, baked or cooked with sliced vegetables (zucchinis or artichokes or eggplants or okras or fresh fava beans or potatoes or mushrooms and/or onions or lettuce or spinach etc.) or chopped wild greens, or chicken livers or lamb innards, or small fishes or cheese… the choice is unlimited. Flour is occasionally added to absorb excess liquid. The vegetable or meat-ingredients are sautéed or cooked and the eggs are poured over them in the pan or in the casserole.
  • Of course, a basic ingredient for this omelet is the shoot of asphodel. Asphodel is the ancient Greek asphodelos, a plant sacred to the Chthonic deities and Persephoni, the young daughter of godess Demeter, who was forcefully taken to the underwold by Pluto. The asphodel also filled the gloomy, shadowy meadows of Hades, the ancient Greek underworld. According to Homer, the disembodied spirits of common dead dwell (Od. 24,14) in the field of these fragrant pale yellow flowers, weeping, wandering around like phantoms (Od. 11.391, 475–476, 605-606; 24.5–9), being confused like dreams (10.495; 11.207–208, 222). Only the heroes, certain people who deserved an afterlife reward for their perfect behavior while alive and the bad guys have different destinations. The heroes- except those going to Olympus- and the exceptional mortals enter to the Elysian Fields, where life is easy and there is the cool refreshing breeze of the West wind. Of course the bad guys are assigned to an unending punishment in Tartarus.
  • As asphodel was regarded the favourite food of the dead, the ancient Greeks planted it near graves.
  • The asphodels belong to two similar genera of the family of Liliaceae: Asphodelus and Asphodeline. The ancient asphodel with the pale yellow flowers which was associated with the Chthonic deities and the fields of the dead, is the Asphodeline lutea, a rhizomatous perennial. Asphodelus aestivus is the common asphodel. Both species populate the eastern Mediterranean region, flowering in April – June. And yes, the roots and shoots of Asphodeline lutea and Asphodelus aestivus are edible.
  • Hesiod (W. & D., 41), described asphodel as the basic ingredient of a poor man’s pulp. Hippocrates and Dioscorides said that the roots were eaten roasted in ashes.Theophrastus stated that the chopped root was mashed with figs and the shoot was consumed fried. The Byzantine lexicographer Hesychius (s.v. asphodelos) also stated that asphodel’s root is edible.
  • Until the end of World War II, the starchy roots saved many Greeks from hunger in times of extreme povery.
  • In folk culinary tradition of Crete, Southern Peloponnese and some Agean islands the asphodel is involved in several local dishes. The tender shoots are consumed like wild asparagus and bryony: they are cooked with olive oil, lemon and flour or with lamb or potatoes or eggs etc.

SFOUGGATO WITH ASPHODELS  (Σφουγγάτο με ασφόδελους) 

Serve 1

I used some frozen shoots that I had harvested in early summer. The procedure for preparing some fresh ones is the following: incise the peels of the fresh shoots, boil the inner parts for 1 minute and soak them in cold water for 3 hours because are somewhat bitter.

1 cup tender shoots, chopped into 3 cm lengths

1 tbs chopped onion

2 eggs lightly beaten

2 tbs evaporated milk

salt

black pepper

4 tbs olive oil, or more according to your own taste, if you’ll fry sfouggato; 2 tbs, if you’ll bake it

Mix the eggs with the milk. Gently sauté the shoots and the onions in 2 tbs olive oil. Add the other 2 tbs olive oil and pour the beaten eggs over them. Salt and pepper to taste and cook, tightly covered, until the eggs are set.

If you’ll bake the sfouggato: oil the bottom of a small baking pan, cover it with the onions and shoots and carefully pour in the eggs. Salt to taste. Remove when well browned and sprinkle with pepper. Serve warm.

The shoots should be crisp and slightly bitter.

This is my entry for Kalyn’s Weekend Herb Blogging hosted by Mediterranean Cooking in Alaska.

Advertisements

Easter eggs

800px-Pasxalina_abga

In the mythologies of many early civilizations  the universe was developed from a great egg. In Greek mythology, the black-winged night gave birth to a silver egg from which sprang eros, the gold – winked god of love. Being considered as source of life, symbolizing rebirth, it is not suprisining that the egg was also connected with springtime fertility rituals.

Tamra Andrews says: “Because eggs embody the essence of life, people from ancient times to the modern day have surrounded them with magical beliefs, endowing them with the power not only to create life but to prophesy the future. Eggs symbolize birth and are believed to ensure fertility. They aslo symbolize rebirth, and thus long life and even immortality. Eggs represent life in its various stages of development, encompassing the mystery and magic of creation….Early mythmakers viewed both the sun and the egg as the source of all life; the round, yellow yolk even symbolized the sun. Clearly, eggs had great symbolic potential… The concept of eggs as life symbols went hand in hand with the concept of eggs as emblems of immortality, and particularly the resurrection of Christ, who rose from a sealed tomb just as a bird breaks through an eggshell… The Jews traditionally serve eggs at Passover as a symbol of sacrifice and rebirth.” Tamra Andrews, Nectar and Ambrosia: An Encyclopedia of Food in World Mythology, [Santa Barbara CA] 2000 (p. 86-7).

The connection of egg with rebirth and enternal life made it symbol of Christ’s Ressurection. The red colour of Easter eggs links Jewish and Christian tradition. It reminds the lamb’s blood with which Jews, when they were slaves in Egypt, marked their houses, so the Angel of death saw and pass over them, and it signifies the blood of Christ. The cracking of the eggs was already known in Byzantium of 13th century. It symbolises the breaking of the tomb, but it is also a wish for a new, better life issuing from Christ’s Ressurection, although the owner of the last uncracked egg is considered very lucky. As many other traditions, the easter eggs are associated with pagan beliefs. The first easter egg was valued for its magical and healing powers. So it was kept near the icons of the family. These healing powers associate it not only with the Christianism but also with the sacred egg, symbol of the skilled in medicine Asclepius, son of God Apollo.

Greeks have one more custom that can be traced back to ancient times. During the evening of Saturday (Thrace) or after the liturgy of Resurrection (Peloponnesos) they place eggs on the graves of their beloved deceased. They adopted this practice from Romans – through Byzantines- who used to eat eggs during the funeral lunches. Copyright © 2007 historyofgreekfood.com