Fresh Fridays 
February 21, 2014 
  Vol. VI, No. 4          
Carnival parade procession going over a bridge with an enormous multi-colored float.

Forget New Orleans' Mardi Gras festivities. Skip the Carnival celebrations in Rio de Janeiro. Embrace the feast days leading into Lent in a Mediterranean style! The tiny country of Malta is said to have one of the world's grandest Carnival celebrations, which will be held from February 27 to March 4 this year. It also has a rich culinary heritage due to the influence of several different colonial powers over the country's 4,000 year history, according to Tony Cassar of the Maltese Gastronomic Portal


According to the Malta Council for Culture and the Arts, the roots of Maltese Carnival celebrations reach back to the early 15th century and the origins of the grand pageantry associated with the festivities are attributed to the Knights of the Order of St. John during the 16th century. The Carnival celebration has evolved into a massive, multi-day celebration complete with parades of enormous and colorful floats, dancers, music, elaborate costumes, and of course, special foods.


Tony explained that in traditional Maltese cuisine, "almost every single dish is linked with a feast, a religious event, or a specific period during the year." The origins of Carnival beautifully illustrate the interconnectedness of food, religion, and culture. The word "Carnival" derives from the Italian phrase "carne vale," meaning "removal of meat," denoting the austere Lenten period during which eating meat was prohibited and sweets were not consumed.


Consistent with the patterns of the Mediterranean Diet, Carnival allows for limited indulgence within cultural parameters. Today the
focus of culinary indulgence during Maltese Carnival celebrations are two sweets, perlini and prinjolata (pronounced prin-yo-la-ta). Perlini, pastel-colored, sugar-coated almonds, were traditionally thrown from parade floats into the crowds of onlookers. Prinjolata is a rich cake and custard confection that appears in Maltese shops prior to Carnival and is sold by the slice from stalls during the festivities in the city of Valletta. Its name comes from the Maltese word for pine nuts, prinjoli, which cover the outside of the treat along with candied cherries and chocolate drizzles.


Following the indulgence of Carnival, the Lenten fast meant abstaining from meat and sweets for the 40 days leading up to Easter. Therefore, meals were vegetarian or fish-based during this period.

It is in the spirit of Carnival that we offer two party-friendly appetizers this week, and in the spirit of Lent that we offer a traditional Maltese fish soup and a vegetarian dish from Crete.


Click on a photo or recipe title below to link to the full recipe:
Recipes in this Issue
Crete's Mixed Greens
Spicy Stuffed Medjool Dates
Grilled Eggplant and Feta Mini Toasts

Talk Back.  
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Does your family have any Carnival traditions or favorite early-spring dishes? Join us at the Oldways Forum to share your family's customs. 

12 Great Ways to Use Beets.  

Travel with Oldways.
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Contact Abby Sloane at 617-896-4875 for more information.           

Bowl of soup. Aljotta             

This traditional fish soup is a popular dish during Lent in Malta. The recipe uses a whole fish to develop deep flavor. 


Recipe courtesy of

This is famed chef and cookbook author Paula Wolfert's favorite recipe for greens, adapted from her book Mediterranean Grains and Greens.

Recipe courtesy of Paula Wolfert from The Oldways Table  

Although not a Maltese dish, this recipe uses Medjool dates--a common Mediterranean ingredient--to make a great finger food for parties.

Recipe and photo courtesy of Bard Valley Natural Delights 
Toast topped with eggplant, tomatoes, and feta.

These Mediterranean-inspired mini toasts are fast and easy to assemble, making them the perfect appetizer for casual parties. 

Recipe and photo courtesy of Al Wadi Al Akhdar 
Fresh Fridays is a bi-weekly celebration of Mediterranean eating and living. We hope our Friday recipes will remind you just how easy and delicious eating the Mediterranean way can be.   

To find even more delicious Mediterranean recipes please visit:     

 Mediterranean Foods Alliance (MFA)        



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Special Thanks.
Maltese Food:

Special thanks to Tony Cassar at the Maltese Gastronomic Portal Learn more about how Tony and others are bringing together Maltese food and cultural heritage at:

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Special thanks also to, where you can learn more about the country's rich culture.