This morning there was a large salad bowl on the kitchen table. At first I thought we were leaving cookies for some kind of vegan Santa Claus but alas it was for us, the people who live in the house. Our mother had prepared koliva to remember the dead. Some is brought to the church and some stays here. Everyone makes this a little differently and whether you believe in its traditional purpose or not, it is very healthy. I had a variation of koliva at Kafana, a Balkan restaurant in New York City’s Lower East Side as a dessert dish; I think they call it zito.
The core ingredient, wheat, is boiled and then laid out on a cloth on the kitchen table to dry out. I bet if you left this out it would sprout baby wheat! The wheat is then mixed in with almond chunks, ground walnuts and walnut chunks, sesame seeds, pomegranate, traces of parsley, spices such as cinnamon, and raisins. The key thing here is that everything remain dry so it does not chuck up and become mud! Brown sugar is on the side so we can add to taste. Keeping the sugar on the side increases the shelf life of koliva.