Make no mistake, eating this dish is a phenomenal experience. This is a dish of the simple folk, the Greeks that had limited money to spend on food. But this is a culinary marvel, comfort food for us as children, cementing our lifelong love for sautéed onions.
Lots of onions!
Here’s the recipe.
1 pound spaghetti (NOT angel hair, not ziti, not rigatoni . . . Just spaghetti)
1/2 pound butter (Not margarine)
5 large onions, cut into thick slivers not cubes (I prefer sweet yellow onions like Vidalia.)
3/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
Boil pasta in salted water until it reaches the al dente stage.
In the meantime, sauté onions in 2 tablespoons of the butter.
Add salt and sugar to onions as they caramelize. Onions are done when they are transparent and some of them are golden brown. Set aside.
Drain cooked spaghetti into a colander. If it wants to stick together, rinse it with just a bit of water.
Place the rest of the butter in the pan you cooked the spaghetti in. Sprinkle with salt and cook until it turns golden brown. Do not let it scorch.
Remove from heat and add spaghetti as you toss it gently to distribute butter evenly. It will sizzle when you dump it into the pan, so be ready to toss.
Add parmesan and toss to distribute, adding salt and pepper to taste.salt and pepper to taste.
Rewarm the onions if necessary and pour them into the pasta. Toss to mix.
Briam is sometimes referred to as tourlou-tourlou (τουρλού-τουρλού), perhaps because of the topsy-turvy nature of this dish. It’s a mish-mash of chopped vegetables and herbs swimming in a high quality extra virgin olive oil.
Briam is a phenomenal Greek dish that epitomizes everything that is great about Greek cuisine; real ingredients, prepared simply, allowing their natural flavours and textures to shine.
Briam is an amazing vegetable and olive oil based dish in the ladera family. Ladera (lathera) is a Greek word meaning “in oil”. These foods are usually vegetable or bean-based dishes that are cooked in copious amounts of extra virgin olive oil.
Briam is basically summer vegetables like peppers, zucchini, eggplant, tomato, and potatoes all cooked in a lot of fresh and dried herbs, onion, garlic, and a ridiculous amount of extra virgin olive oil. It is a completely vegan dish that isn’t lacking at all in flavor. These summer vegetables become melt in your mouth delicious. This is one of my favorite ways to eat vegetables because they taste rich and decadent without being unhealthy.
If you’ve never had briam, you will be amazed at how perfect basic can be. Now let’s get to our recipe.
* Important note: I had hoped to add a photo so that you could take in the sheer beauty of a pan of briam, but, alas, there is not even one photo I could borrow that pictured the briam of my childhood. So I’ll take a picture the next time I make it.
Μπριάμ / Briam
1 large eggplant, cut into thick slices
2 zucchini, cut into thick slices
2 yellow squash
About 30 pods of fresh okra
3 carrots sliced into large pieces
3 potatoes, peeled and cut into large wedges
2 colored peppers, cut into 1/4’s
6 fresh or quality canned tomatoes, crushed
3 onions, cut into large pieces
4 cloves garlic, chopped finely
1/2 bunch fresh parsley, washed and chopped
1/4 cup fresh basil, washed and chopped
1/2 bunch fresh dill, washed and chopped
1/2 Tbsp salt
5 Tbsp sugar
1/4 Tbsp black pepper
1 Tbsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried rosemary
1 tsp dried thyme
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 can tomato paste
3/4 cup water
Preheat oven to 400 F.
Make sure when cutting the vegetables, they are kept in large pieces. This will allow them to hold their shape even when cooked down to a soft texture.
To a mixing bowl add all of the vegetables except the tomatoes, fresh herbs, dried herbs, salt, pepper, sugar, 1/2 cup olive oil and tomato paste. Mix well with your hands until the vegetables are completely coated.
Carefully place the vegetables except onions onto a sheet pan in neat sections. Place onions and tomatoes on on top of all the vegetables. Drizzle the water onto all of the vegetables.
Drizzle with remaining olive oil, some crushed oregano and cracked black pepper.
Put the sheet pan into the oven and set a timer for 1 hour.
After 30 minutes has gone by, using a spatula carefully flip over the vegetables.
After an hour total has gone by, check the briam and make sure the potatoes are completely cooked and there’s a nice golden caramelization on the vegetables. If they are not well caramelized, increase oven temperature by 25 degrees and bake for 10 more minutes.
There’s almost nothing more glorious than a big pan of stuffed tomatoes and peppers with roasted potatoes drenched in fine Greek extra virgin olive oil. My grandchildren are here from Arkansas, so I made a pan today for us to enjoy.