Lemon Blueberry Tart

Today is the first day of autumn, and I choose to be in denial. It’s eighty degrees outside, my pool remains open, and is being used I might add, and I am still wearing summer clothing. I know I should post something with apples and pumpkins, but there will be two months to do that. I want one more week – just one more. I thought something lemony and light would help me to extend my summer. When I began to read the original post for this lemon blueberry tart, I had to laugh at myself. It was January 25th, and I was making the ultimate comfort food. Leg of lamb stuffed with garlic, just like my mother made it. Just as I had Anastacia and Soula make it in Evanthia’s Gift. But as usual, I was longing for the warm weather, so I baked a dessert that would feel and taste sunny. And here I am, using the same dessert to hold on to a summer I don’t want to end.

cheffie's kitchen

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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

Crust

2…

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Greek Salad – With or without lettuce? That is the question

Making a Greek salad for lunch to take to work is one of my favorite meals. A party size Greek salad is always a crowd pleaser. Whether you decide to made a traditional Greek salad, or the Americanized version which includes lettuce, the key to perfection is a good imported feta cheese and an excellent olive oil. I live near the town of Port Jefferson on Long Island. I frequent a store named The Amazing Olive, located on East Main Street. The owners are extremely helpful and welcoming, and the oils and vinegars are divine. There, you can find oils in dozens of flavors and from various countries, each having a unique taste. When I made my roasted potatoes with their truffle infused olive oil, the scent lingered throughout the house for hours. With my Greek salad, I used their Koroneiki Greek Extra Virgin Olive Oil. The taste of the dressing was delicate and flavorful. If you don’t live in the area and you aren’t able to visit The Amazing Olive, I’m sure you can find a specialty store that carries Greek olive oil. If you can get out to Port Jefferson, please visit. The town is beautiful and the Amazing Olive carries a variety of products. Spices and herbs. Soaps and body oils. But their Olive oil and balsamic vinegars are reason enough to stop by.

cheffie's kitchen

IMG_1846Last week my neighbors had their annual summer party, hosting well over fifty guests. Firemen seem to be famous for their culinary prowess, and Stan is no exception. Waiting to see what would show up on the buffet table this year, everyone hoped for their favorite from years prior. My husband craved his keilbasi and baked beans, while our friends were waiting for the crab legs. I was looking forward to his smoked ribs that cooked for hours on his industrial size grill. This year he surprised us. He switched out the ribs for pulled pork. Now normally, it is not my favorite, but this was delicious. Usually made with pork shoulder, he chose to use several pork tenderloins. He cooked them for hours in a good store brand BBQ sauce and added root beer and brown sugar to enhance the flavors. Stan also made BBQ chicken with a dry…

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SPANAKOPITA

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“It was time for the eating marathon to begin. The dinner was a traditional American Thanksgiving — turkey, stuffing, yams, brussels sprouts, mashed potatoes and corn bread — but the appetizers or mezethes as they called it, were strictly Greek. The table had platters of dolmathes, tiropitas, spanakopitas and taramousalata.”

-An excerpt from Evanthia’s Gift  (available on Amazon – goo.gl/iPo1pa)

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It pains me to even use a Thanksgiving reference from the book, since I have no desire to give up on summer yet. However, this excerpt is a perfect example of how most of the American holidays in our family went. To be perfectly honest, I’d be happy with the mezethes, and more than willing to forgo the turkey.

I remember “the making of the spanakopita” as the laborious main even of the day. The spinach would have to be washed and rinsed from the sand at least two or three times, and then dried. Then my mother would sauté the spinach and press out all the excess liquid through a fine strainer.

I have so many good memories of watching my mother bake and cook, and learning all that I know from her, but this was not something that looked like fun to me. For years, I never made spanakopita. I made little triangles of tiropita, but never trays of spanakopita. I let my sister slave in the kitchen over that one.

I had this idea. What if I didn’t sauté the spinach? How would it come out? Well, I got my answer. Delicious. And the best part? I didn’t slave for hours.

I forgot to tell you about my second cheat. Now anyone that is acquainted with me, knows I’m not one to cut corners, or use ready-made products, but for this recipe, I only use baby spinach that has been triple washed! A little more expensive, but worth it!

I would like to share the information of a fellow Greek blogger. Unlike me, the home cook who learned from mom and experimentation, the kouzounaskitchen blog is written by a Cordon Bleu trained chef from Greece who also learned her Greek recipes from her yiayia and mother. Follow her blog, instagram and twitter, and wait for the release of her upcoming cookbook inspired by recipes from her yiayia’s island.

Spanakopita

 

2 pounds fresh spinach

1 teaspoon kosher salt

6 finely sliced scallions

¼ cup olive oil

½ cup loosely packed fresh parsley and mint combination, chopped

¼ cup fresh dill, chopped

1 ½ pounds imported feta cheese, crumbled

¼ cup breadcrumbs

2 eggs, lightly beaten

Pepper to taste

1 pound packaged phyllo

1 cup unsalted butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350°

Sauté the scallions until tender. Normally, what most people do, and what I watched my mother do, was to sauté the spinach also, and then drain all the liquid out. This is where I decided to cheat. I saved myself the aggravation of all that pressing and draining, and…it paid off. It was a risk, but it was worth the try. In a huge bowl, I toss the spinach, sautéed scallions, parsley and mint, dill, breadcrumbs, salt, pepper, eggs and the feta together. The spinach is going to melt down when it cooks in the oven, and by not sautéing it, it seems to have a fresher taste.

Grease a large baking pan and lay 8-10 phyllo leaves down, brushing each layer with butter. Spread the filling over the buttered pastry leaves. Lay another 8-10 leaves on top, brushing each leaf with butter. Tuck in any overhanging phyllo edges. Score the spanakopita with a sharp knife into square pieces. Pour any remaining butter evenly over the top. Bake for 45 – 55 minutes until golden.