It’s October, and the weather in New York has taken a nasty turn. The pool company covered my pool, and my husband took in the lawn furniture. So that’s it. (Sigh) I have no choice but to concede—the summer is … Continue reading
Here’s an excerpt & recipe from Waiting For Aegina: Book Two in The Gift Saga. Scroll down past the recipe for some information on an exciting online author event from Tuesday, July 17 – Friday, July 20. Summer 1978 … Continue reading
January 15th was the 5th annual Greek Dinners Around The World. This social media event was the brainchild of Kerri Douglas, publisher of 9MusesNews.com. Chefs, authors, bloggers, and business owners from around the globe hosted dinners, shared memories and showcased … Continue reading
With Labor Day a week away, I thought I would repost a few grilling recipes this week. I love summer food. Everything goes on the grill, from meats and veggies to potatoes and even some fruits like pineapple and peaches. … Continue reading
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!
1 pound chopped meat
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Happy New Year Everyone! I hope this post finds all of you well. Regrettably, my last post was several months ago, but I hope this gave you a chance to scroll back and look at some of my past posts and recipes—especially my newer followers.
Let me catch you up on what has been keeping me away. Like most people, the holidays kept me very busy—Baking, decorating and shopping. In addition the second book in The Gift Saga was about to be published and I was inundated with details and decisions.
I’m happy to announce the continuation of Evanthia’s Gift is now available on kindle and in print and is titled Waiting For Aegina. Just as I had in Evanthia’s Gift, I added recipes between some of the chapters—spanakopita, stuffed peppers, eggplant dip and Loukoumathes.
Today is a social media event day, which celebrates Greek food and culture. If you #GreekDinner you can find posts by Greeks from all over the world sharing a meal, a story, their blog, business, or books. You can go to my Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to see how I celebrated and what I cooked for this event.
It’s been a while since I’ve shared a recipe with you, so here is one for Spanakopita.
2 pounds fresh spinach
1 teaspoon kosher salt
6 finely sliced scallions
1 medium onion, diced
¼ cup olive oil
½ cup loosely packed fresh parsley and mint combination, chopped
¼ cup fresh dill, chopped
2 pounds imported Greek feta cheese, crumbled
¼ cup breadcrumbs
2 eggs, lightly beaten
Pepper to taste
A dash or two of nutmeg
1 pound packaged phyllo
1 cup unsalted butter, melted
Preheat oven to 350°
Sauté the scallions and onion until tender. Normally, what most people do, and what I’d always watched my mother do, was to sauté the spinach, and then squeeze out the excess liquid. This is where I decided to cheat a bit. 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, toss the spinach, sautéed scallions & onions, parsley, mint, dill, breadcrumbs, salt, pepper, nutmeg, eggs and the feta together. The spinach is going to melt down when it cooks in the oven and, by not sautéing it beforehand, it won’t wilt down as much.
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.
Today is National Baklava Day! I didn’t know there was such a day until recently. There seems to be a day for everything, so why shouldn’t this delicious, traditional Greek pastry be honored with its own day?
Many people are intimidated by the thought of attempting to make baklava, mainly because they’re not familiar with working with phyllo. It’s actually one of the easiest pastries to make and I often whip up a tray when I want to make something without too much fuss.
Baklava is so special it’s even mentioned in my novel, Evanthia’s Gift. Here is an excerpt:
As the weeks went by, the change in Sophia could not be suppressed. She was lighter, happier and her eyes had a more dreamy quality to them. Whatever her task, it reflected the love that was bursting from the depths of her soul. Her bouquets at the flower shop were the most beautiful and creative work she’d ever fashioned. For Valentine’s Day she baked a delicious batch of baklava, while daydreaming how Dean would lick the sticky phyllo and walnuts off her fingertips, and she would kiss the rest of the honey off his irresistible lips. At the dance studio, she lost herself in romantic love songs, staying after class to choreograph pieces to the music that expressed her love for him. But it still bothered her that Dean wanted to keep their relationship a secret.
~ Baklava ~
1 pound finely chopped walnuts
½ cup sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 package phyllo dough
1½ cups melted unsalted butter
1½ cups honey
2 cups sugar
2 cups water
Orange rind and 2 tablespoons juice from orange
2 cinnamon sticks
*Don’t be intimidated by the phyllo. It does dry fast so you need to work quickly. Most bakers like to cover it with a damp towel. That method doesn’t work for me. I find the sheets of phyllo get stuck together. I just keep some Saran wrap on top to keep it from drying. The regular long size phyllo is great when I double the recipe and make a large pan. (The size of a full size sterno pan) If you find the shorter phyllo sheets, a 9x 13 pan works perfectly. I use a Pyrex baking dish and it works beautifully.
Combine the filling ingredients in a bowl and set aside.
Brush the inside of the pan with some melted butter to coat. Lay two phyllo sheets in the pan. Brush the phyllo with butter using a pastry brush. Repeat three times. The bottom layer will have eight sheets in all. Spread one third of the filling onto the phyllo. Lay two sheets on top of the filling and brush with melted butter. Repeat two more times. Spread another third of the filling on the phyllo. Lay two sheets of phyllo and brush with melted butter. Repeat two times. Spread the last third of filling on the phyllo and cover with two sheets of phyllo. Repeat three more times. The top and bottom layers should have eight sheets. The layers in between the filling should have six sheets and there should be three layers of filling.
Carefully cut the baklava into squares, and then cut each square diagonally to form two triangles. This must be done before baking or the top layers will crumble if you try to cut them after baking. If you have any leftover butter, drizzle it over the top before baking. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes, then lower temperature to 300° and bake for an additional 30 minutes. The top layer should be golden brown.
While the Baklava is baking, combine all the ingredients for the syrup in a pot. When it reaches a boil, lower to a simmer. Simmer for twenty minutes.
The syrup should be cooled if you are pouring it over hot pastry, or the pastry should be cooled if the syrup is hot. I prefer to have both slightly warm when I pour the syrup. Let the syrup absorb into the baklava for a day before serving.
Happy October! Once I begin to feel a chill in the air, I yearn for comfort food. One of my favorite meals is a bowl of Youvarlakia. These meatballs are different than the type you would eat with spaghetti. Instead of breadcrumbs and grated cheese, these are filled with rice and herbs.
My mother would make them one of two ways – either in a simple tomato sauce that took on the flavors of the meatballs or in avgolemono sauce – my favorite.
Youvarlakia is one of the recipes included in my upcoming novel, “Waiting for Aegina: Book Two in The Gift Saga.”
If you haven’t had the opportunity to read “Evanthia’s Gift” yet, this would be a good time. For food lovers, there are several recipes between the chapters, and for readers who enjoy a good love story that spans decades, this is the book for you. It was recently named a finalist in the Reader’s Favorites Awards.
Here’s how to make this comfort dish. When it’s ready, get cozy on the couch with a good read and a bowl of youvarlakia.
2 pounds of ground beef
½ cup rice (not cooked)
½ cup fresh parsley
1 large onion, grated
2 tablespoons dill
2 teaspoons salt
1 generous pinch of nutmeg
1 or 2 pinches of ground black pepper
Mix all the above ingredients together to form meatballs. I suggest a size a little larger than a golf ball. Place the meatballs in the refrigerator to set for 20-30 minutes. This way the meatballs will not fall apart when you drop them in the boiling liquid.
In a pot, add:
1 bay leaf
2 cups chicken broth (optional)
2 cups water
* If you don’t use the chicken broth then double the water to 4 cups.
Bring the liquids to a boil. Turn down the heat to a high simmer and carefully drop in the meatballs. Cover and cook for 25- 30 minutes. My mother would lay a dish directly on the meatballs to hold them down and keep them from falling apart. This is up to you. I’ve done it with and without the dish, both with good results.
There are a few variations on the method to making this sauce. Basically, it consists of lemon juice and eggs, beaten together. Some cooks add a tablespoon of flour to thicken it. Others separate the egg whites and whip them until they are frothy, and then add it to the egg yolk and lemon mixture. I do it the way my mother made it.
Juice of one lemon (2 if you like the sauce extra lemony)
Put the eggs and lemon juice in a blender and run on medium speed until frothy. Take about one cup of the liquid from the meatballs and slowly add it to the egg-lemon mixture while the blender is still running. This will temper the eggs so they do not scramble.
Remove the meatballs from the heat and pour the avgolemono over the meatballs. Cover the pot and let it sit for 5 minutes before serving.