Lemon Blueberry Tart


What is Cheffie to do on a frigid day when the wind is gusting and the snow is predicted to accumulate to thirty inches? With nowhere to go, Cheffie spends a good part of the day in the kitchen. I have a leg of lamb in the oven, and when my family comes home they instantly recognize the aroma of the garlic cooking inside the slits of lamb I’ve stuffed into it. “It smells like Yiayiá’s house,” my daughter says, and for me that is the greatest compliment.

What to make for dessert… I want to taste the flavors of summer. Truth be told, I just want summer. Period. Nothing reminds me of the sun and warm weather more than citrus. So for a little bit of sunshine on a blistery day, my lemon blueberry tart will do the trick.

Lemon Blueberry Tart

 Preheat oven to 350 degrees


2 sticks unsalted butter, softened

½ cup confectioner’s sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

¼ teaspoon salt

2 ¼ cups flour

In a bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add salt, vanilla, and flour. Mix until blended. Form a ball and flatten to a disc. Grease a two-piece tart pan. Press the dough evenly into the pan. With a mini rolling pin smooth the dough inside the pan. Depending on the size of your tart pan, you may be left with unused crust. Bake for 20 minutes or until the edges are golden.


2 cups sugar

1/3 cup flour

6 large eggs

Juice from 2 large lemons

Zest from 2 large lemons

1 cup fresh blueberries

1 teaspoon vanilla

¼ cup confectioner’s sugar

In a large bowl, mix sugar and flour. Whisk in eggs until smooth. Stir in lemon juice and zest. Fold in berries. Pour filling over crust and return to oven for about 30 minutes or until filling sets. Let cool in pan on a wire rack. When the tart is completely cool, remove rim from tart pan. The bottom will easily separate by sliding a knife under it. Sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar.

Zumaki- A Warm Soup Fit For A Cold Night


Like our clothing and activities, our eating habits also change with the seasons. During the summer I live on fresh vegetables, salads and meats cooked on my outdoor grill. But with a dusting of snow on the ground and a forecast warning twelve to twenty-four inches, a salad isn’t going to warm me up. In this weather I reach for my large Dutch oven and cook huge pots of sauce with meatballs and braciole, or a pot roast, or a hearty soup.

On a cold day my mom would make a soup called zumaki, a beef and vegetable soup. Normally I didn’t like this kind of soup—and to this day I would never order any kind of vegetable soup in a deli or restaurant, but this was different. Zumaki is more like a stew, but with soup broth instead of gravy. The vegetables are not chopped into tiny pieces— carrots cut in half and quartered onions and potatoes fill the bowl.

There’s a method to eating Zumaki—a method as individual as the person devouring it. Mine is to squeeze a generous amount of lemon into my bowl and sprinkle it with extra salt. Then I eat the meat and the vegetables with a little broth on each bite. When the vegetables are gone I rip little chunks of Italian bread into the soup and eat the bread with the soaked up broth. And all the while my two sisters would be sitting at the table crying why they had to eat this meal in the first place. They can’t believe I actually make this in my own home because when they moved out of our family home they knew they would never have to eat it again. The truth is, if they tried it now they would probably love it—well, one of my sisters would. The other one subsists on candy and potato chips.

For me Zumaki evokes warm memories of cold days sitting at the dinner table with my family. Whenever it is very cold or someone isn’t feeling well I make a pot of Zumaki. Fortunately, my family looks forward to this meal and they, thankfully, didn’t have the same tearful reaction my sisters had.


2 pounds beef stew meat

2- 3 large onions, quartered

Celery heart, halved

6-8 carrots

4 medium potatoes

12 ounce can tomato paste

4 beef cubes (or beef bones from butcher)

2 bay leaves

Salt and pepper to taste

Fill a large pot with water. (About two-thirds full). Add the cubed stew meat, bring to a boil and then simmer for thirty minutes. Add the onions, celery and bay leaves. Continue to simmer for another thirty minutes. Add the carrots, potatoes, tomato paste and beef cubes. Simmer until the potatoes are tender. Season with salt and pepper. If you use the beef cubes do not add any additional salt. My mom used to add bones for the flavor she would get from the bone marrow and she never used beef cubes. If you choose to do this you may need to add the salt. Serve with lemon and the crusty bread of your choice.



Today, My dear friend Lita Smith-Mines, Editor-in-Chief of BOATING TIMES LONG ISLAND MAGAZINE, informed me that today is National Cheese Lovers Day. Certain that if she went on my blog she would find a “cheesy” post to add to her Hungry Boater App page, she found a recipe for French onion soup topped with gooey melted cheese. If I only knew about this day—one so important to a person like myself—a self-proclaimed cheesaholic. So, in honor of this day—I give you saganaki. So what exactly is saganaki? Saga-what? It sounds Japanese, but it’s not, It’s a Greek appetizer made from pan-fried cheese.

The way to make this depends on where in Greece the cook is from or what restaurant you go to. My mother insisted her way was the authentic way. But that’s an Athenian for you. She took an inch thick slab of kasseri or kefaloteri cheese and dipped it in egg and flour. She would then fry it in a hot olive oil, just enough to coat the pan. When the first side was golden, she flipped it over and waited for that side to turn a golden color. Transferring it onto a plate, she squeezed fresh lemon on the cheese and sprinkled it with oregano. It’s quick, it’s simple, and it’s heaven.

Many years ago I went to a Greek restaurant and ordered the saganaki. When it arrived it didn’t look like the saganaki I was used to, but it was delicious. It was more like a dip or a casserole. I often make this when I entertain. It is easy to prep ahead and great to serve to a crowd. For this version thinly slice tomatoes and onions. Pat dry the tomatoes and set them aside while I parboil the onions. Drain and dry the onions. In the bottom of a baking or casserole dish place the onions and tomatoes. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and oregano. Grate the kasseri or kefaloteri in shreds and generously lay over onions and tomatoes. Sprinkle lightly with oregano. Bake in oven at 400 degrees until the cheese bubbles and begins to turn golden. Serve immediately with crusty bread or pita. Some restaurants present this dish flambéed. It’s great for dramatic effect—shooting flames, a couple of shots of ouzo and maybe break a few plates for good luck.

At the EPCOT Food and Wine Festival participants can sample food from over thirty countries. Each country has a tiny building or kiosk to represent it. In “Greece,” I sampled a version of saganaki in a way I never had before. They simply griddled a slab of cheese until it crusted on both sides. To finish it, they drizzled honey and roasted pistachio nuts on top. That’s it! It tasted like a sweet and savory dessert. I replicated it at home and discovered it was still easier to egg and flour the cheese. I tried it without the egg and flour and the cheese just melted all over the pan.

Now for the real dilemma. How do I decide which way to prepare it when each way is equally delicious?

From Pot Roast To Beef Barley Soup – Turn Leftovers Into A New Meal


Until a few years ago I never made beef barley soup. I’m actually not a huge fan of soup in general. I have my favorites—French onion and chicken soup avgolemeno, but that’s pretty much it. My family, on the other hand, loves just about any variety. So one day when I made pot roast and was left with enough to feed an additional family, I decided to turn the rest into soup—beef barley soup. I never made it before and I didn’t search for a recipe.

When my co-workers read that my last blog entry was for pot roast they knew beef barley soup would follow and I would be coming into work with containers for each of them. I’m so predictable.

It’s really easy to do this and a great way to morph one meal into a whole new one.

Here’s how I do it:


Shred all the leftover meat from the pot roast and chop any remaining vegetables. Set aside. Chop a large onion, 2 to 3 carrots, a heart of celery and a 16-ounce package of mushrooms (white or bella). Add 1-tablespoon vegetable oil and 2 tablespoons butter to a large pot and sauté the chopped veggies until tender. Add 8 to 10 cups of beef broth or stock. This amount will vary depending on how much leftover meat you have. Add a cup of red wine, the shredded meat, the leftover veggies from the pot roast and all the leftover gravy. When the soup comes to a boil add a cup of barley and simmer until the barley is tender. The soup should already be seasoned from the pot roast gravy, but taste and adjust as needed.


I think you will be happy with the result. The flavors are richer and the meat is very tender.

The No Recipe Recipe For Pot Roast


It’s a new year and I know everyone is probably expecting me to write an inspiring blog on how to stay fit and eat healthy. It’s a wonderful thought – one that will have to wait. The weather is wet and nasty. The dampness is chilling my bones and all I think about is staying warm. Short of hopping on the next plane to anywhere closer to the equator, the only thing left for me to do is to cook comfort food.

Yesterday I made pot roast for the first time this season. As I added ingredients mindlessly, I regretted not writing down each step and every exact amount to document for this post. But after thinking about it, I realized it was for the best. I’m surprised by the amount of people who’ve told me recipes intimidate them—too many ingredients—too many steps. It doesn’t have to be that way. So what if you use two cups of wine instead of one? Or four carrots instead of three? Does it really matter? Cooking is about creating a meal that pleases you. Add what you like and omit what you don’t care for. It’s as simple as that. The biggest issue is seasoning—that’s the biggest challenge. Gordon Ramsey yells at his line cooks for over or under seasoning. And on Top Chef, Tom Colicchio hangs his head down to show his disappointment when his talented contestants fail to season their food. Their advice is always the same. Taste, taste, taste…and adjust.

Back to the pot roast. Do you really need a recipe for it? No, just a few instructions and a little common sense.

Melt about 4 tablespoons of butter in a large pot or a Dutch oven and brown a chuck, top round or rump roast on all sides to seal in the juices. Add a couple cloves of garlic and 3 or 4 large onions cut into quarters. Add as much red wine as you like. I add a whole bottle. Add enough beef stock or broth to cover the meat. Season with pepper and three bay leaves. I don’t add salt. The stock usually has enough already. Simmer for an hour. Add celery hearts. (Cut in half). In a separate pan, sauté mushrooms in enough butter to coat the bottom of the pan. Add to the roast. Simmer another hour. Every once in a while turn the roast so any exposed parts can sit in the sauce. Add carrots (peeled and cut in half). This is where you decide what you want to do. I love carrots and mushrooms, but I don’t care for celery. I add very little celery and a lot of what I like. Taste the sauce. If it’s bland, add salt and pepper. If you like your food hot, add more pepper. If you want to bring out the flavor of the wine you can add another half of a cup about ten minutes before the roast is finished. You will know when the roast is done when you put a fork in it and it begins to fall apart. About three hours is usual. Remove the roast from the pot before thickening the sauce. Make a slurry of cornstarch and water and whisk it until it is smooth. Add the slurry to the simmering sauce until you get the desired consistency, stirring constantly.

Serve with mashed potatoes or noodles. I serve pot roast with spaetzle. It’s a German homemade noodle that is heartier and so much better than egg noodles. Look for it in the specialty section in your grocery.