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.

 

 

GREEK DINNER AROUND THE AROUND EVENT – BOOK RELEASE- SPANAKOPITA

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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.

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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

1½ pounds imported Greek 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’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, parsley, 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 seemed to be less wilted and had 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.

 

 

 

 

NATIONAL BAKLAVA DAY!

 

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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 ~

 Filling

1 pound finely chopped walnuts

½ cup sugar

1 tablespoon cinnamon

Pastry

1 package phyllo dough

1½ cups melted unsalted butter

Syrup

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! A COMFORT FOOD DISH – YOUVARLAKIA

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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.

 Youvarlakia

2 pounds of ground beef

½ cup rice (not cooked)

½ cup fresh parsley

1 large onion, grated

1 egg

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.

Avgolemono Sauce

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.

3 eggs

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.

Kali orexi!

Good appetite!

 

 

MELITZANOSALATA – GREEK EGGPLANT DIP

 

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Happy autumn! It’s been a busy but wonderful summer and I’m sorry to see it go. I’d love to rewind and do it all over again. I’ve neglected this blog a bit, but for good reason. But I’m back now and I have a few announcements to share with all of you!

At the end of June we went to Disneyworld. Now that isn’t uncommon for our family, but we went with my husband’s nephew and his family who had never been there before. The children, 7-year-old Sophia and 3-year-old Ryan had a truly magical experience—we did too, watching them enjoy every moment.

Between boat rides on the Long Island Sound, backyard gatherings by our pool with friends and family, day trips out East to wineries and the Hamptons, and the many Greek festivals we attended, it was easy to get distracted from finishing Book II in The Gift Saga. But I was rooted to the computer every evening and late into the night until it was time to leave for a long awaited trip to Greece.

We flew into Venice, Italy and stayed there until we boarded a cruise ship, which would take us to several Greek locations. Venice was so unique and beautiful, and the food was delicious. Our first stop was Montenegro—a country I never would have thought to visit, but I’m so happy I had the opportunity to experience it. It had so much history and the towns were charming. The food was similar to Greek and Italian food, but with their own unique spin. Again – delicious. Let me just say now that everyplace we went, the food was amazing. The next day was charming Corfu and the next was Athens, birthplace of my mother. Mykonos was heaven on earth – the food, the town – the beaches. Kefalonia was the last stop before heading back to Venice. That was a place I wanted to visit my entire life. It was where my grandfather was from. He would take my mother there every summer when she was a girl. Finally, we got to see all the places we had only known of only from her memories.

Now that the beautiful summer is over, it’s time to get back to work. I’m putting the finishing touches on the book while the editor has her finger on it. For those of you who read Evanthia’s Gift, you know that I added recipes between some of the chapters. I am currently gathering the recipes to place in Book II.

There’s a chapter that takes Sophia and Amy back to 1978 when they are at Sophia’s grandparents’ beach house in Aegina. They are sitting outside, enjoying the sunshine and snacking on melitzanosalata – a traditional eggplant dip. I’ve come up with my own recipe for this easy to make and delicious dip. I’m sharing it will all of you before it is even published in the book.

I invite you to check out my author Facebook page – Effie Kammenou – and my instagram –cheffieskitchen – if you’d like to see some of the pictures from my trip to Greece and Venice. It’s also a great place to keep updated on future events and promotions.

I’m announcing the title of the book here first:

 

Waiting for Aegina

Book II in The Gift Saga

 

Release date to be announced at a later time (fingers crossed – by Thanksgiving)

 

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

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, 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, with crackers, pita, or with crusty bread.

 

GREEK PANZANELLA SALAD

Photo by Alexa Speyer

Photo by Alexa Speyer

With the warm weather finally upon us, my cravings have shifted to lighter and fresher foods as opposed to the heavier sauce laden meals of winter. Salads made with fresh corn, tomatoes, and cucumber for example. And the herbs! Freshly snipped from my container garden. A while back I posted this recipe for panzanella salad, but with everyone planning outdoor parties, I thought this would be a good time to share it once again for all my new followers. It’s definitely been a favorite around here.

Panzanella salad is a bread salad that is traditionally Italian. But, what can I say? I have to put my spin on it and Greekify it. We can say it’s a fusion of sorts—like my family. My husband is Italian so this salad has a bit of both our culinary cultures.

Buon Appetito & Kali Orexi

 

Greek Panzanella Salad

Party size

4 – 5 large tomatoes cut in thick slices

2 cucumbers cut in chunks or thick slices

1 small red onion thinly sliced

2 red, yellow or orange peppers cut in chunks

1 round Tuscan bread with crusts removed and cut into 1-1/2 cubes

1 pound slab of feta cheese

1 cup basil leaves

(Fresh dill, chives and parsley may be added also)

Heat a large skillet and coat with olive oil. Add the bread cubes, constantly turning as each side browns. This can be done a day ahead.

Cut up all the vegetables and place in a very large mixing bowl. Drizzle with oil and vinegar, tossing until coated. Add salt and pepper to taste, a teaspoon of sugar and 2 cloves of crushed garlic. Mix well. Add the basil and any other fresh herbs you like. I always add oregano, but I also add fresh dill, chives or parsley if I have it on hand. Break the feta into chunks and add to the salad. Add the toasted bread cubes. Toss to coat. Transfer into a large salad bowl. There should be little or no excess dressing left in mixing bowl. If you would like to make the dressing ahead, I recommend mixing the fresh herbs in with the vegetables, not the dressing. If you only have dried herbs on hand you can add the herbs to the dressing. Below is a Greek salad dressing using dried herbs.

 

Greek Salad Dressing

1 cup olive oil

¼ cup red wine vinegar

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon pepper

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 tablespoon dried parsley

1 teaspoon sugar

2 cloves crushed garlic

Combine all ingredients and whisk well, shake in a cruet or emulsify in a blender. Drizzle over salad, mixing and tossing to coat. Do not overdress. You will not use all the dressing. Keep in the fridge for later use.

 

 

 

 

 

COUNTDOWN OVER! TONIGHT IS ANASTASIA – GREEK EASTER – RECIPE FOR KOULOURAKIA

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The day has finally come! Tonight is Anastasi—the night Orthodox Christians around the world celebrate the resurrection. After forty days of lent and another week for Holy Week, the wait is finally over. In between our normal daily routines, we’ve spent each evening this week attending solemn church services, as well as cooking and baking for the Easter celebration.

Tonight we shed our sadness of the crucifixion and rejoice, and no one does it better than the Greeks! Thousands will be out in the streets holding candles while the priest shouts out to the masses, “Christos Anesti – Christ has risen!

Afterward, the celebration will continue by consuming all the food that was prepared all week. It doesn’t matter that it’s two in the morning, or that some people may have lost a few inches of hair to the flaming candle behind them, they will eat until the wee hours of the morning.

Mayaritsa (traditional Easter soup), an array of cheeses, dolmathes, spanakopita, pastitsio – too much food to name. And each region of Greece has its own specialties.

After a few hours of sleep, family and friends gather the next day on Easter Sunday to continue the celebration. From the reverence for the holy days to the celebration after, the Greek spirit is evident. There is a joy and passion we call Kefi. It’s a love and appreciation for life.

Koulourakia

 

Pre-heat oven to 350º

Ingredients

9 cups flour

3 tablespoons baking powder

Juice and zest from 1 large orange

1 dozen large eggs

4 cups sugar

1 pound unsalted butter, softened

1 additional egg

Sesame seeds

In a bowl, mix together the flour and baking powder. Set aside. In a separate bowl, mix together eggs, sugar, orange juice and zest. In a large bowl, cream butter. Add the egg mixture to the butter, blending well. Mix in the flour. Form into a dough that can be worked without sticking to your hands. If necessary, add more flour. Form into small braid-like twists, circles, and S’s. Lightly beat an egg with 1 teaspoon of water. Brush the egg mixture onto each cookie and sprinkle sesame seeds. Bake for approx. 20 minutes. Yields approximately 120 cookies.

COUNTDOWN TO GREEK EASTER – TIROPITA AND AN EXCERPT FROM EVANTHIA’S GIFT

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Today is Good Friday. In between church, which Orthodox Christians attend three times on this solemn day, a lot of preparation needs to be done for the Easter celebration. And that involves mostly food, as you can tell from my posts this week.

The Greeks are people seeped in tradition, and our recipes are handed down from generation to generation. All week I’ve seen posts of the most beautiful tsourekia, and koulourakia—each person putting their own artistic spin on the designs.

I lost my mother almost four years ago and Easter was her favorite holiday. She would prepare for weeks, cooking and baking. Having her entire family around, gave her so much pleasure. I just had a phone conversation with my sister and she said that since our mother died, it is hard for her to feel anything for the holidays and she simply goes through the motions. I told her that she needs to try to look at it a different way. Our mother passed down these traditions, which were passed to her by her parents. Nothing would make her happier than to know that we carried on her legacy through her food and her customs. We should rejoice in all that she gave us and make sure our children pass it on to their children.

These emotions that I carry in my heart and the love for my heritage and my parents customs and traditions carried though in my novel, Evanthia’s Gift. Here is an excerpt:

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On Holy Thursday, Sophia spent the day dyeing red Easter eggs and making dough for the tsourekia, a traditional braided bread similar to challah, but sweeter. The baton was being passed, so to speak, as she was instructing Evanthia on the proper way to braid the bread.

“Now we will cover them with towels and keep them in a warm place. When they rise, we can bake them.”

“I’ll get the towels, Mom.”

“While we are waiting, we can dye the eggs.”

“Are we taking these to Yiayiá’s house?”

“Yes. I told her we would bring them.”

Making the bread was a long process, and took the bulk of the day. After the bread rose, they placed a red egg at the end of each braid, washed the surface with egg whites and sprinkled them with sesame seeds, once again letting them rise before baking the breads in the oven. The Church service of the Passion was at seven o’clock, and she needed to time the entire procedure perfectly or she would be late.

“While the bread is in the oven I will show you how to make tiropita.” Sophia instructed her daughter on forming perfect triangles of phyllo dough stuffed with a feta cheese mixture.

“Can I do the next one by myself?”

“Sure.” Sophia watched her daughter as she placed a dollop of cheese mixture onto a strip of phyllo and folded it just as she showed her. “That’s it. I couldn’t have done it better myself. My yiayiá in Greece taught Yiayiá how to cook. Yiayiá taught me and now I am teaching you. Someday you will teach your children to cook these foods and pass on the traditions of our family.”

Tiropita

 2 pounds Feta

2 egg yolks

Nutmeg

Parsley or dill (optional)

Phyllo

1 cup unsalted butter, melted

Cut the phyllo into 2 – 3 inch wide strips.

Mix feta, egg yolks, nutmeg and herbs in a bowl until smooth. Using 3 sheets of filo strips, place 2 tablespoons of the cheese mixture at one end and fold into triangles. Brush the triangles with butter using a pastry brush and place on a parchment-lined baking dish. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until golden brown.

* To freeze for future use, store before brushing with butter. There is no need to thaw, simply place them in the oven as directed.