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.

 

 

COUNTDOWN TO HALLOWEEN! SWEET CORNCAKES

 

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It’s that time of the year again! Fall is upon us and we begin our marathon of holidays and entertaining—for me that begins with Halloween. Ever since my children were very young we made a huge deal of every occasion, and now that they are full grown adults that hasn’t changed on bit.

Each year I would prepare stuffed pepper and tomatoes, take the children trick-or-treating with their cousins, and then our two families would have dinner together. Afterward, the dads would take the children back out to trick-or-treat in the dark.

The dinner became a tradition, and as the children grew to adulthood it seemed more people began to join our ‘ritual’. Lucky for us, we have our niece and nephew who now bring their children to our gathering – I’ve been told it’s the highlight of their Halloween! And my daughter and her co-teacher bring their dogs, dressed in costume, to beg for candy.

Our group of eight has now gone to sixteen. A simple meal of stuffed peppers doesn’t seem to be enough anymore. Last year I came up with this recipe for sweet corncakes and they were a hit! So, since I’ll be making them again, I thought I’d share the recipe once more for anyone who might have missed it.

Sweet Corncakes

 

 2 cups corn (preferably fresh off the cob, or thawed frozen)

1 cup Monterey Jack cheese, shredded

1½ cups panko breadcrumbs + another 2 cups for coating cakes

¼ cup dried chives

1 tablespoon cilantro (substitute parsley if you don’t care for cilantro)

1 tablespoon Greek yogurt

3 tablespoons honey

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon pepper

In a food processor, pulse the corn into a puree. Do not over process. There should be some texture to the mixture. Transfer to a medium sized bowl. Add the cheese, breadcrumbs, chives, cilantro, Greek yogurt, honey, salt and pepper. Stir until combined. To make the patties, form into balls a little larger than golf balls and flatten. Place the remaining panko breadcrumbs in a plate and coat each cake.

*Place in an airtight container and freeze, separating each layer with wax or parchment paper. Spray oil spray on grill or brush oil on the grill grates. Grill until browned and cooked through, about 5 minutes on each side.

*I recommend freezing before grilling. This will ensure that the patties will not fall apart during the cooking process.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

FRESH CORN SALAD

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Last year, I posted a recipe for grilled corn salad, and it became one of my favorite side dishes to make for my backyard parties last summer. This recipe is exactly the same, but for one step. I didn’t grill the corn. Call it laziness or my unwillingness to stand outside in cold weather, but I wasn’t about to turn on the grill. So I boiled the corn instead, and the result was delicious. The combination of the lime juice and the fresh corn was refreshing. The grilled corn was flavored differently because of the char on the kernels, and was equally tasty but in a different way. The choice is always yours. And of course, you can try it both ways to see which you prefer. I love them both. The one thing I know for sure is that I am so happy to be cooking summer food and enjoying the warm weather at last!

FRESH CORN SALAD

12 ears of corn, husked

3 limes, juice and zest

6 tablespoons olive oil

3 tablespoons chives

½ cup sliced scallions

Salt and pepper to taste

½ cup fresh basil, chiffonade

12- 14 mini kumato tomatoes, halved

Place the corn in boiling water for no longer than two minutes. Cool and remove kernels from the cob. In a bowl, add corn, scallions and tomatoes. Drizzle in the olive oil and add the zest and lime juice. Mix well. Add salt and pepper. Add chives and basil, mixing gently.

This is the crowd size portion, and can be made a day ahead. Smaller portions make a nice side dish for every day dinners.

Countdown to Greek Easter – Spanakopita

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Yes! I said Easter. Orthodox Easter arrives much later this year, May 1, and today begins Holy Week. For those of us who will be doing the cooking, this week’s fasting restrictions present a challenge. Tasting your food to make sure the seasoning is correct is vital, but since our diet is restricted this is impossible. No meat, dairy or olive oil is to be consumed. The experienced cook, and that includes most Greek moms and yiayiás, have learned to cook tradition recipes without sampling.

In honor of Greek Easter, this week’s posts will include the delicious foods being prepared for Easter, and some recipes to try while holding the fast. Of course, if you are not restricted this week, feel free to try these healthy recipes, as well as the foods you probably have only tried at Greek festivals.

I’ll start with an easy one. Spanakopita. Don’t get intimidated by the phyllo. It’s easier to work with than you think. Make a few trays and freeze them. It’s a crowd pleaser and having them already prepared saves last minute work.

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!

 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 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.

 

 

 

 

 

HAPPY NEW YEAR! HEALTHY AVOCADO TOASTS

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New Years—a time for renewal, clean slates and fresh starts. During the holidays, I bombarded you with decadent desserts, tempting your taste buds and torturing your mind with fear of climbing onto the scale.

But the truth is, every day can be a fresh start. There’s no need to wait for the beginning of a year or a certain month. Simply take your resolution of healthy eating day by day. I say healthy eating and not the dreaded word diet. Once that word is used, you are doomed to failure.

The notion is that once the diet is completed and the goal is reached, you can resume eating “normally.” “Normally” is what created the need for the diet in the first place. Too much food and the wrong foods have been accepted as the norm.

Aside from being the country with the biggest obesity problem, we also have the highest incidence of diabetes and high cholesterol. Why do you think this is? It’s simple, really. Our portions are way too large. The concept of supersizing meals or “all you can eat,” is foreign to people from other countries. Another factor is the processed foods that we eat. I’m telling you, they are not only making you gain weight, but also affecting your health. Our bodies are not hard-wired to understand how to digest the chemicals in the foods that come out of a box. Should I even mention how much cancer we are dealing with in this country?

I’ve said it many times—BUY INGREDIENTS NOT PRODUCTS!!!

One of the reasons I started this blog was to show people how quick and easy cooking can be. Sharing my Greek heritage through my food and stories is something that I love to do, but I also want to showcase other, easier recipes that readers can make in a pinch after a day at work.

So if you make any resolution to go on a diet, please change your mindset and think about permanently altering your eating habits just enough to be a little healthier and safer, and I promise you, the pounds will come off as a bonus.

This avocado toast recipe could not be any easier. I’ve watched my daughter make it in a matter of five minutes. Alexa is a graphic designer and when they are on photo shoots for the magazine she works for, they order food for the creative team. This is her favorite thing to have for breakfast, but I think it makes nice lunch as well. It’s entirely up to you.

*Did You Know?

Avocado is a superfood and contains 20 different vitamins and minerals.

Avocados do not contain cholesterol and are low in saturated fat.

Avocados contain more potassium than bananas.

Avocados are heart-healthy, loaded with monounsaturated fatty acids.

Avocados are loaded with fiber.

Avocado Toasts

 1 avocado, mashed

1 tablespoon olive oil

Juice from ½ lemon

Salt and pepper to taste

Brick oven or chiabatta bread, toasted

Mix all the ingredients together. Spread onto toasted bread and serve immediately.

 

 

COUNTDOWN TO THANKSGIVING – SWEET GRILLED CORNCAKES

IMG_4041With Thanksgiving only nine days away, preparation and organization is key. Especially when, like many of us, we are trying to juggle more than we can be done in any given day, unless of course you require no sleep whatsoever. For this reason, I try to prepare some foods that can be made ahead and frozen without compromising the flavor.

Two weeks ago, I made tiroptia – triangle cheese pies – to serve as an appetizer, and I froze them. I often do this and have them on hand when unexpected company comes, or we decide to have an impromptu gathering.

Today, I made corncakes, which I plan on serving as a side dish. I happened to come across the Food Network TV show, Giada at home, and she made corncakes with smoked mozzarella. The method was quick and easy, and I decided to make them one evening when I had a crowd over for dinner.

Everyone loved them, and they especially enjoyed the smell and taste from the smoky flavor of the mozzarella. I, on the other hand, thought they were just okay. Don’t get me wrong – Giada can do no wrong in my eyes. She’s my celebrity chef idol, but I wasn’t sold on the smoked cheese.

I like my corncakes on the sweet side, so I decided to try my hand at my own recipe, tailored to my tastes. For Thanksgiving, I’m serving both Giada’s smoked corncakes and my sweet corncakes. I’ve already prepared and frozen the patties, and I’ll grill them the morning of Thanksgiving and heat them in the oven warmer before serving them. Freezing is recommended regardless of when you plan to serve them. It helps to keep the patty from falling apart when grilled.

 

Sweet Corncakes

 

2 cups corn (preferably fresh off the cob, or thawed frozen)

1 cup Monterey Jack cheese, shredded

1½ cups panko breadcrumbs

¼ cup dried chives

1 tablespoon cilantro

1 tablespoon Greek yogurt

3 tablespoons honey

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon pepper

In a food processor, pulse the corn into a puree. Do not over process. There should be some texture to the mixture. Transfer to a medium sized bowl. Add the cheese, breadcrumbs, chives, cilantro, Greek yogurt, honey, salt and pepper. Stir until combined. To make the patties, form into balls a little larger than golf balls. Flatten to form the patties. Place in an airtight container and freeze. Spray oil spray on grill or brush oil on the grill grates. Grill until browned and cooked through, about 5 minutes on each side.

THANKSGIVING COUNTDOWN CONTINUES! ROASTED CAULIFLOWER AND VEGETABLES

Photo credit to Alexa Speyer

Photo credit to Alexa Speyer

There are certain foods you make for holidays year after year. It may be something you only make once or twice a year, so your family and guests look forward to it. For instance, the stuffing recipe that I shared with you in my last post — if that didn’t make its way to my Thanksgiving table there would be a lot of unhappy faces and censure over breaking tradition. But as eating habits have changed over time, so must the menu.

The chestnut stuffing recipe makes no claims to be low fat. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. So to balance it out, this year I’m taking out a very beloved cauliflower recipe I’d made for years with another healthier one.

The one I’d made before had butter, cream and Swiss cheese. If I was eating nothing else, I could eat a large plate of it. However, with all the other foods, particularly that stuffing, which I crave, I only could manage a taste.

This year, I will be roasting the cauliflower, and no one will miss the fatty cream and cheese because I am seasoning with flavorful herbs and spices. I know my daughters will be happy. They don’t enjoy the fatty foods and prefer the vegetables in their natural state, and not drowning in a creamy sauce.

Please, don’t limit yourself to cauliflower. There’s a world of delicious vegetables available. You can roast broccoli, peppers, carrots, or any other root vegetable. It’s so easy and there’s no fuss.

Roasted Vegetables

1 large head cauliflower

2 pounds multi-colored potatoes, or any variety

1 pound carrots

Or the vegetables of your choice

Seasoning

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon sea salt

½ teaspoon pepper

1 teaspoon garlic powder

½ tsp shallot salt

1 tablespoon dried parsley

2 tablespoons dried chives

Mix together in a small bowl the sea salt, pepper, garlic powder, shallot salt, parsley, and chives.

*I doubled the seasoning recipe since I was making cauliflower and potato and carrots.

Using two separate large bowls, fill one with the cauliflower and the other with the carrots and potatoes. Drizzle each with olive oil and toss thoroughly to coat. If the cauliflower is extra large, you may need to add another tablespoon of olive oil to coat evenly. Do not saturate with oil. Sprinkle the seasoning into both bowls and toss to coat. Place on a shallow parchment lined baking dish or cookie sheet. Roast for 40 minutes at 400º

** For roasting beets – wash the beets, cutting the tips off each end. Drizzle a tiny amount of olive oil on the beets and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Wrap the beets in aluminum foil and place in a baking pan. Bake at 400º for 40 minutes for medium size or one hour for large beets. After, unwrap the foil and cool. The skins will peel off easily.

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.