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.

 

 

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

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

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.

 

 

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

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.

 

 

 

 

 

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!

 

 

Chicken breasts with truffle infused apricot sauce

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Once the summer is in full swing, I tend to use my grill almost every day. Outdoor cooking and dining poolside is a treat after the cold, nasty winters. But although once Memorial Day is behind us, and we consider the summer season to have begun, it unfortunately hasn’t. Springtime on Long Island can be frustrating—teased by one day of sunny, warm weather, and followed by three days of chilling rain.

Today was not a day for outdoor cooking, yet I’m tired of the heavy foods I’d cooked all winter to keep warm. This is what I came up with today. The prep time was minimal and the result was sweet and tasty.

Chicken breasts with truffle infused apricot sauce

2 split bone-in chicken breasts (4 pieces)

½ cup apricot preserves

¼ cup honey

3 tablespoons black truffle infused balsamic vinegar

¼ cup truffle infused olive oil

2 cinnamon sticks

4 cloves garlic, sliced

1 tablespoon tarragon

Pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400º

In a saucepan combine the apricot preserves, honey, vinegar, oil, garlic, pepper, tarragon, and cinnamon sticks. Heat on medium until it begins to bubble. Remove from heat and set aside.

Line a shallow baking pan or cookie sheet with foil. Brush some of the glaze under the skin of the chicken and another layer of glaze over the top. Bake for 20 minutes. Baste with glaze and bake for an additional 20 – 25 minutes.

Reheat the remainder of the glaze and use it as a side sauce for the chicken. Alternatively, pour remainder of sauce over the chicken after plating.

 

 

 

CHICKPEA & CAULIFLOWER PATTIES WITH SPINACH PESTO

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Chickpea & Cauliflower Patties

1 – 29 ounce can garbanzo beans (chickpeas)

2 cups cooked cauliflower, pureed

2 cloves garlic

½ cup fresh basil

1 cup flour

1 large egg (for vegan recipe omit egg and add an additional ½ cup flour)

¼ cup olive oil

3 tablespoons fresh dill

Salt & pepper to taste

3 cups Panko breadcrumbs

*Oil for frying

In a food processor blend together the chick peas, garlic, basil, egg, olive oil, and flour. The result will form a pasty texture. Transfer to a large bowl.

Puree cooked cauliflower in food processor and add to the chickpea mixture. Add dill, salt & pepper and mix until thoroughly blended.

Place the mixture in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Pour panko breadcrumbs into a dipping tray. Using a small ice cream scoop (or a large melon baller) form balls and drop into panko, rolling carefully to coat. Pan fry in oil, approximately 5 minutes on each side or until golden brown.

*Use the oil of your choice. Olive oil is too heavy. Coconut oil works very well. I find myself using more and more.

Spinach Pesto

 5 ounces fresh baby spinach

2 cloves garlic

½ cup olive oil

¼ cup pumpkin seeds

½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

Salt & pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients in a food processor until blended into a pasty puree. If you desire a thinner pesto, add a bit of water or a little more olive oil.

You may also want to try the patties with tzatziki sauce or a marinara.