Soupe à L’ail – French Garlic Soup

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Last October I visited France in order to do some research for my upcoming novel, the last book in The Gift Saga. Although my stories are primarily set on Long Island, New York and various locations in Greece, this third book travels to Paris and Champagne as well.

My time in Épernay was an experience I will never forget. I was able to visit and learn about the creation of champagne in the traditional méthode champenoiseat a generations-old family vineyard. I also walked the length of L’Avenue de Champagne, where many of the most famous Champagne houses are situated. Each one was breathtaking in its grandness and unique in atmosphere.

Soupe à L’ail is an easy to prepare traditional French dish. With the other two books in the saga, only Greek recipes were included, ones that had been handed down to me by my mother and grandmother. This time, along with the ones from my own heritage, I’ve added a couple of French ones.

News of the release of Book 3 will be announced soon, but you can count on it to be available for your summer reading. In the meantime, here is one of the recipes tucked between the chapters.

 Soupe à L’ail

2 Heads Garlic

2 Quarts chicken broth

1 Tablespoon Herbs de Provence wrapped and tied in cheesecloth

1 Teaspoon salt

2 Medium potatoes, peeled and diced

2 Tablespoons cornstarch & ¼ cup of water

4 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

3 Eggs yolks

2 Tablespoons butter

Topping

Thin slices of baguette, toasted

Swiss or Gruyere cheese, shredded

 

Bring the chicken broth to a boil. Break up the garlic into individual cloves, leaving the skin on. Add the cloves to the boiling broth and lower the heat to a simmer. Add the diced potatoes. After five minutes, remove the cloves, which should be floating at the surface, from the pot. Let the broth continue to simmer.

Remove the garlic from the peels and mash before adding them back into the broth. With a handheld Immersion blender whisk until the solids are pureed.

Mix the cornstarch and water in a small bowl and add to the soup, blending thoroughly.

In a separate bowl whisk the olive oil and egg yolks together. Slowly ladle approximately a ½ cup of the soup into the egg mixture to temper it. Add the egg mixture to the soup and stir. Melt in the butter to finish and add a silky texture.

Garnish with cheese topped toasts.

 

 

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GETTING THE GRILLING IN BEFORE THE CHILLING – SQUEEZING OUT EVERY BIT OF THE LAST DAYS OF SUMMER

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KEFTETHES SLIDERS – A DELICIOUS ALTERNATIVE TO THE PLAIN HAMBURGER

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I love keftethes. As long as I can remember, they were a staple in my home growing up and I continue to make them often for my own family. They taste delicious cold or warm – plain or slathered in tzatziki sauce. Yes, they are fried and, as health conscious as we are today, there are some foods we simply cannot resist. But what if I combined the delicious mixture of herbs and spices and formed them into a patty that didn’t require frying? The result was a hit!

Keftethes Sliders

 1 pound chopped meat

1 egg

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1 medium onion, grated

4 slices of white bread, dampened in water (no crust)

¼ cup breadcrumbs

¼ cup olive oil

1 teaspoon dried oregano or 2 tablespoons of fresh oregano

¼ cup of fresh mint or basil or combination of both

Splash of milk

Salt and pepper to taste

This is the exact recipe for keftethes with one exception. I’ve added ¼ cup of breadcrumbs for a little extra firmness. Otherwise, these patties might be prone to falling apart on the grill. Normally, this mixture of ingredients would be formed into meatballs, rolled in flour and fried. No frying necessary! Combine all of the ingredients, mixing well. Form into hamburger-sized patties and place in the refrigerator to set. Grill and serve on pita bread (preferably lightly grilled as well) and garnish with lettuce, tomato, cucumber and a generous amount of tzatziki sauce.

Tzatziki Sauce

2 cups Greek yogurt

3 large cloves garlic, crushed

4 Tbs. white wine vinegar

3 Tbs. olive oil

½ tsp. paprika

2 Tbs. fresh dill or 1Tbs. dried

salt and pepper to taste

1 tsp. sugar

2 cucumbers – peeled, cored from seeds and finely grated. Press through strainer to dry. *The cucumber will make the sauce loose and runny if you skip this step.

Mix all ingredients together with a whisk. Chill before serving. Serve with souvlaki or keftethes. It also makes a refreshing dip. Make this a day ahead and the flavors will intensify.

 

 

KARITHOPITA – AN EASY-TO-MAKE GREEK WALNUT CAKE

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Photo by Alexa Speyer

Summer is here and my hibernation is over! It’s time for light summer meals, BBQs on the patio and weekend entertaining. It’s been a long winter here in New York, stretched out by a spring that felt almost as cold as the winter itself.

So what has cheffie been doing? Yes, I know I’ve neglected this blog, but I’ve been busy promoting Book Two in The Gift Saga: Waiting For Aegina and writing the third and last book in the series. Not to mention holding down a day job, running a household and spending quality time with my ninety-five year young dad.

Like the first two books, recipes will be included between some of the chapters, and I’ve been thinking about which ones I’ll share with readers. So far, each of the recipes has been a Greek one, most of them handed down to me by my mother and my yiayiá (grandmother). This time around don’t be surprised to find a French recipe thrown in to set the mood—hint, hint of a new local and adventure for some of the characters.

This recipe for Karithopita, I’ve already decided, will be added to Book Three. It’s delicious, easy to prepare and one of the many recipes my mom had handed down to me. Karithia is the Greek word for walnuts and this cake is loaded with them, doused in simple syrup and cut into individual squares.

Karithopita

Preheat oven to 350º

4 cups coarsely crushed walnuts

1½ cups sugar

3 cups flour

½ cup butter, softened

8 eggs, separated

2 teaspoons cinnamon

2 teaspoons baking powder

In a large bowl, beat the butter, sugar, egg yolks and cinnamon together. Set aside. In another bowl, beat the egg whites to a meringue. Fold into butter mixture. Add the walnuts. Mix together the flour and baking powder before adding it to the mixture. Stir until fully blended.

Butter and flour a 9 x 13 baking dish. Pour the batter into the pan. Bake for 40 minutes.

While the cake is baking, make the syrup.

5 cups sugar

5 cups water

2 cinnamon sticks

Add all the ingredients in a medium-sized saucepan. Bring to a boil. Lower the temperature to a simmer for 15 minutes.

Cut the cake into even-sized squares. Cool to a warm or room temperature. Add the warm syrup, allowing the cake to absorb the liquid.

I suggest letting it sit for several hours or overnight.

 

 

 

GREEK EGGPLANT DIP & AN EXCERPT FROM WAITING FOR AEGINA:BOOK TWO IN THE GIFT SAGA

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This past Monday, the Great Lent began or as the Greeks say, Megali Sarakosti. During this 40 day period meat, dairy or any animal products should not be consumed. Many, like my father, who by the way is 94, adheres to this strict fast for its duration. Some choose to abstain on Wednesdays and Fridays, and others only follow the fast during Holy Week.

Finding new foods to offer my family had been a challenge over the years, but I found that many of the tried and true traditional recipes that generations of faithful before me ate were some of my best choices. In many ways it is a much healthier way to eat. As we take the focus off our gluttony and on to more spiritual thoughts, we also cleanse our body from the impurities in many of the foods we eat.

As some of you know I recently released the second book in my Greek heritage inspired saga. Enjoy an excerpt from Waiting For Aegina, along with a recipe from one of the foods the characters enjoy as they look out onto the clear blue waters of Greece.

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Summer 1978

 

        For Amy, the three weeks that she and Sophia had spent in Greece together proved to be a perfect escape, and a place where she made some very important decisions.

They were in Aegina, seated on the elevated front porch of the Fotopoulos beach house overlooking the clear blue water as sunbeams reflected off its gentle waves. Fuchsia bougainvillea spilled over the sides of the whitewashed walls and down the stone steps that led to the golden sand. Amy picked a flower off the vine and brought it up to her nose. For all its delicate, paper-like beauty, it did not have a determinable scent. But the vibrant color and the abundance in which they grew were stunning in contrast to the white homes and the blue sky.

They sat contemplatively and ate a simple lunch. Plump red tomatoes, chunks of cucumber and slabs of feta cheese filled their plates. Sophia ripped a small piece of bread from a crusty loaf and spooned some melitzanosalata onto it. The eggplant dip was one of her favorites, and her yiayiá had given her some to take back to the beach house when they visited her in Athens the day before.

The girls spent most of their time on the island, exploring the tiny shops, tavernas and markets on the main street of the waterfront. They’d wander ancient ruins and sometimes offer to take a photo or two for a group of tourists. And Sophia even took Amy to Agios Nektarios, the holy monastery where tens of thousands went each year to pray to the patron saint for a miracle.

Melitzanosalata

3 Large eggplants

1 Head of garlic

¼ Cup seasoned breadcrumbs

½ Cup extra virgin olive oil

1 Teaspoon balsamic vinegar

Juice from ½ of a large lemon

3 Tablespoons freshly snipped dill

1 Teaspoon sugar

1 Tablespoon paprika

Dash of cayenne pepper (optional)

Salt & pepper to taste

 

Pre-heat oven to 400º

Place the eggplant on the rack of the baking dish. Puncture each eggplant in several places so that excess water will drain as it roasts.

Place a head of garlic on aluminum foil. Slice off the top and drizzle with olive oil. Wrap the foil around the garlic and place it in the same baking pan as the eggplant.

Roast for 1 hour. Remove from the oven and cool for 45 minutes to an hour.

Peel away the skin of the eggplant and remove as much of the seeds as possible. Squeeze the roasted garlic from the skin.

In a food processor, pulse together the eggplant, garlic, breadcrumbs, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, lemon, dill, sugar, cayenne (if using), paprika, salt, and pepper, until fully blended.

*Keep in mind that each eggplant is different in size and water content. You may need to adjust the amount of oil or breadcrumbs to achieve the consistency you desire.

Serve on crostini, crackers, pita, or crusty bread.