Lemon Blueberry Tart

Today is the first day of autumn, and I choose to be in denial. It’s eighty degrees outside, my pool remains open, and is being used I might add, and I am still wearing summer clothing. I know I should post something with apples and pumpkins, but there will be two months to do that. I want one more week – just one more. I thought something lemony and light would help me to extend my summer. When I began to read the original post for this lemon blueberry tart, I had to laugh at myself. It was January 25th, and I was making the ultimate comfort food. Leg of lamb stuffed with garlic, just like my mother made it. Just as I had Anastacia and Soula make it in Evanthia’s Gift. But as usual, I was longing for the warm weather, so I baked a dessert that would feel and taste sunny. And here I am, using the same dessert to hold on to a summer I don’t want to end.

cheffie's kitchen


What is Cheffie to do on a frigid day when the wind is gusting and the snow is predicted to accumulate to thirty inches? With nowhere to go, Cheffie spends a good part of the day in the kitchen. I have a leg of lamb in the oven, and when my family comes home they instantly recognize the aroma of the garlic cooking inside the slits of lamb I’ve stuffed into it. “It smells like Yiayiá’s house,” my daughter says, and for me that is the greatest compliment.

What to make for dessert… I want to taste the flavors of summer. Truth be told, I just want summer. Period. Nothing reminds me of the sun and warm weather more than citrus. So for a little bit of sunshine on a blistery day, my lemon blueberry tart will do the trick.

Lemon Blueberry Tart

 Preheat oven to 350 degrees



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I really can’t think of a Greek pastry I don’t like. You name it – I love it. And I really don’t eat a lot of cake or pastry. Maybe it’s because I grew up with it, or because I have memories of my mom making dozens of cookies for the holidays, but there is nothing that compares to kourabeithes, kouroulakia, finikia, baklava, karithopita, revani…shall I go on an on? Okay! Galakteboureko, loukomathes, bougatsa, kadaifi…

I can’t decide which is my favorite. Probably the one I bake the least – thiples. I think I’m allergic to rolling out dough. Or truth be told, I just don’t have the patience. So as much as I love thiples, I rarely make it. And neither did my mother. But my Aunt Despina did. And this is her recipe. I can’t tell you how many times I asked her, “how do you get this dough rolled out so thin without putting holes in it?”

It was my frustration at mastering this pastry that gave me the idea for an exchange in a chapter between Sophia and Soula. It was actually a memory Dean had when his mother, Soula, cooked all his favorite foods and for dessert made a tray of thiples. Here is an excerpt:

“You weren’t kidding when you said you made all my favorites.”

           He smiled when she brought out a tray of thiples. Not because he had a weakness for them, but because the dessert evoked a very distinct memory. He had come home from soccer practice one afternoon to find his mother and Sophia in the kitchen making thiples. The pastry needed to be rolled out paper thin, and Sophia was struggling to get the dough to cooperate. He watched the two of them work side by side to create strips of puffed pastry, drizzled with honey, cinnamon and walnuts. Sophia had been about sixteen, and it hadn’t been long after the summer they’d stayed home while their parents went to Greece — the best summer of his life. What he wouldn’t give to have those simple days back.



¼ tsp sugar

3 eggs

½ tsp vegetable oil

Pinch salt

¼ baking powder

Mix all ingredients to make dough. Use as much flour as needed so dough is not sticky. Wrap in saran wrap and let sit for one hour. Roll out dough in stages, super thin, so you can almost see through it. Slice into 2×5 inch strips. Place a few strips at a time in a deep frying pan, filled 1/3 full with vegetable oil. Twist with a fork and turn while frying until golden. Remove and drain. Repeat until all the dough is used.

To make the syrup

2 cups sugar

1-cup water

½ cup honey

orange rind

cinnamon stick

Bring ingredients to a boil. Simmer for 20 minutes. Cool and drizzle over thiples. Finely chop Walnuts and sprinkle over thiples. Lightly sprinkle cinnamon.

Yields a large platter of pastry.


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In EVANTHIA’S GIFT, I’ve shared many recipes, all of which gave been relevant to the story. But the chapter in where the moist and delicious revani was cited, had been deleted. Yet, I’ve kept the recipe in the book. One of the characters, dies crossing the street – hit by a taxi cab. The section that was deleted explains the reason she was hit. She’d made pastries that afternoon, and decided to walk across the street to deliver some to a friend who lived close by. With a platter of revani in her hands, she mindlessly crossed the street and was struck by a car and killed instantly.

My editor thought this was strong and harsh in tone in comparison to the rest of the book, and she deleted it. The truth is that this exchange was inspired from an actual event. Years ago, my father’s godmother had guests over and she’d made a platter of pastries for them to take home. When they left, she realized they’d forgotten to take the pastries, so she ran outside to give it to them. Backing out of the driveway, her guests ran over her, killing her instantly. A truly awful story.

So when you read EVANTHIA’S GIFT,and you get to this unfortunate event, you will now know why this character was crossing the street. And that’s all I can say – no spoilers. In the meantime, the revani was too good to delete. It’s easy to make, and one of the biggest requests I get from friends and family.



1 1/3 cups flour

1-cup farina or semolina

8 eggs

¾ cups sugar

2 tsp. baking powder

½ tsp salt

2tsp. vanilla

Zest of 1 orange

Combine flour, farina, baking powder and salt. Beat sugar and eggs with a mixer. Mix in vanilla and orange zest. Slowly add the farina mixture and mix through. Pour batter in a buttered 11x 14-inch baking pan and bake at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes. The cake should be golden on top. While the cake is baking, prepare the syrup.


4 cups water

3 cups sugar

1 cinnamon stick

1-2 slices of orange rind

Juice from ½ orange.

Add all ingredients to a pot. Boil for 10 minutes and simmer for another 10 minutes.

The juice from the orange is optional. I decided to put the orange juice in the syrup so not to waste the orange I took the zest from. The cake had a more intense orange flavor than usual. If you only wish to have only a hint of orange flavor, omit the juice and use only the rind.

After the cake has cooled a bit, cut it into serving size squares or diamonds. Pour the warm syrup over the cake and let it absorb the syrup before serving.



I have been trying for years to master this traditional Greek Easter Bread. I’d watched my mother make it since I was a child, and as an adult I’d followed her recipe. But as delicious as it was, it didn’t have quite the same texture as the ones we would buy at the Greek bakery. Mom’s was sweet and tasty, but dense – not light and fluffy like the store-bought ones were.

So for years, I’ve tried to crack the code — discover the secret — find the perfect recipe. What I discovered was that there wasn’t anything wrong Mom’s recipe. The problem was in the execution, and my nemesis was the yeast. Apparently, I didn’t understand the meaning of lukewarm. I now know that for the best results, you want the water to be the same temperature as your finger, otherwise, the yeast will not rise to its full potential, if at all.

This year, I was determined to make the best batch of tsourekia, so I consulted a panel of experts — avid bakers on a Greek Facebook page. After taking the advice from several women, I decided to keep my mother’s measurements but alter her method a bit. And I am satisfied with the result. I get to keep my mom’s recipe in the family, yet at the same time, use it in a way that works for me.

To all my non-Christian Orthodox readers, I hope you had a wonderful Easter and Passover. And to all those anticipating Easter, Kali Anastasi!


2 packets rapid rise yeast (1/4 ounce each)

4 ounces lukewarm water

Dash of sugar

1 cup whole milk

1 ½ cup sugar

1 ½ cup unsalted butter (3 sticks)

5 eggs, room temperature

Juice and zest from 1 orange

1 teaspoon powdered mahlepi

½ teaspoon powdered mastiha

1 teaspoon salt

9-10 cups bread flour

1-2 egg yolk for brushing top of bread

Sesame seeds or almond slices for garnishing

In a bowl add the lukewarm water to the yeast along with the dash of sugar. The temperature of the water will decide if your bread will be a success or an epic fail. I have had both. The water should be the same temperature as your finger. Any warmer and it will kill the yeast. Place saran wrap over the bowl and set aside for about 10 minutes.

In a saucepan, add the butter, milk and sugar. Stir until the butter has melted. Do this over a low temperature. Remove from the pan and pour into a large bowl. Allow the mixture to cool to lukewarm.

Whisk in the eggs. Add the orange juice, zest, mahlepi and mastiha. Add the yeast mixture and whisk to combine.

In the bowl of a standing mixer, add the four and salt. Add the wet ingredients. Attach the dough hook to the mixer and mix on low speed for 1 minute. You may need to shut the mixer off and scrape the sides with a spatula. Mix at medium/high speed for 15 minutes. The dough will be a little sticky, but will begin to pull away from the bowl.

Transfer to a separate bowl, cover with a linen cloth and keep in a warm place for 2-3 hours. If you can’t find a warm enough place, I suggest you preheat your oven to 200 degrees and then shut it off. Place the bowl in the oven. When the dough has risen, gently deflate the dough with your fists and divide into 3 or 4 equal balls, depending on how large you want to make your breads and how many.

Each ball will then be divided into three equal sections and stretched long enough to form a braid. Form each braid on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Place a linen cloth over them and let them rise in a warm place for 1 hour.

In a small bowl, add 1 tablespoon of water to the egg yolks and whisk. Carefully, place a red Easter egg at the large end of the braid. With a pastry brush, gently coat the top of the bread with the egg and then sprinkle with sesame seeds or almond slices.

Bake in preheated oven set at 350 degrees for 40 minutes.

Lemon Blueberry Tart


What is Cheffie to do on a frigid day when the wind is gusting and the snow is predicted to accumulate to thirty inches? With nowhere to go, Cheffie spends a good part of the day in the kitchen. I have a leg of lamb in the oven, and when my family comes home they instantly recognize the aroma of the garlic cooking inside the slits of lamb I’ve stuffed into it. “It smells like Yiayiá’s house,” my daughter says, and for me that is the greatest compliment.

What to make for dessert… I want to taste the flavors of summer. Truth be told, I just want summer. Period. Nothing reminds me of the sun and warm weather more than citrus. So for a little bit of sunshine on a blistery day, my lemon blueberry tart will do the trick.

Lemon Blueberry Tart

 Preheat oven to 350 degrees


2 sticks unsalted butter, softened

½ cup confectioner’s sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

¼ teaspoon salt

2 ¼ cups flour

In a bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add salt, vanilla, and flour. Mix until blended. Form a ball and flatten to a disc. Grease a two-piece tart pan. Press the dough evenly into the pan. With a mini rolling pin smooth the dough inside the pan. Depending on the size of your tart pan, you may be left with unused crust. Bake for 20 minutes or until the edges are golden.


2 cups sugar

1/3 cup flour

6 large eggs

Juice from 2 large lemons

Zest from 2 large lemons

1 cup fresh blueberries

1 teaspoon vanilla

¼ cup confectioner’s sugar

In a large bowl, mix sugar and flour. Whisk in eggs until smooth. Stir in lemon juice and zest. Fold in berries. Pour filling over crust and return to oven for about 30 minutes or until filling sets. Let cool in pan on a wire rack. When the tart is completely cool, remove rim from tart pan. The bottom will easily separate by sliding a knife under it. Sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar.

Koulourakia – A Traditional Greek Christmas Cookie


These traditional Greek Christmas cookies are one of my favorites. Plain, but delicious, they are great with a cup of tea or coffee. Forming each cookie is the longest part of the process, however, they are one of the simplest cookies to make. If you have any leftover after the holidays, don’t hesitate to freeze them. They taste just as good when thawed.

I remember watching my mother make these cookies and asking to help her. For years, I only got to do the “grunt work”—Juicing the oranges or cracking and beating the eggs. She didn’t trust that I would form the shapes to her standards. But I learned from watching and eventually she let me do the “fun” part. And now I carry on the tradition she set for our family and pass it down to my own children.


Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees


8 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 to room temperature

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, blending well. Mix in the flour. Form a dough that can be worked without sticking to your hands. If necessary, add more. Roll 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.

Ready to go into the oven.

                                           Ready to go into the oven.

Throwback Thursday! Kourabeithes


Originally, made this entry during the holiday season of 2010. I think I mentioned at Thanksgiving that my family is imbedded in tradition and I don’t think that’s about to change, nor do I want it to.

This time of year my home turns into a cookie factory. Each Christmas, my mother baked traditional Greek pastries and cookies and gave them out to friends and neighbors. I carried on that tradition—times ten! When my girls were in grade school there were so many people to give gifts to—classroom teachers, music teachers, dance and gymnastic teachers, and classroom aides. Honestly, the last thing any of them needed was another mug or #1 teacher paperweight, so I gave each teacher a tray of Greek cookies. They were unique and not at all like the usual Christmas cookies they’ received in the past. I continued this right through the girls’ high school years, even though there were several teachers to remember.

In order to bake the number of cookies I do in such a short amount of time, I need to stay focused and organized. I don’t want to loose sight of the reason and feeling behind the holidays. I don’t want the baking, decorating and shopping to become a chore. I want it to be something to look forward to and to enjoy with my family. It saddens me that we work ourselves to exhaustion for that one day or even eight days for some of my friends, but then we feel let down in the end. It’s not that the gifts weren’t good or the gathering with family wasn’t fun. We are let down because we didn’t enjoy the journey of the whole season and after all the planning and preparing, it was over in the blink of an eye. I like to watch corny Hallmark Christmas movies while I bake and wrap gifts. I choose less crowded times to shop and enjoy finding the perfect gift for each person. Driving through my neighborhood is like being on the set of a Christmas movie. Each home is beautifully decorated, and I love driving around blasting Christmas music. I think if you enjoy the whole season, you will appreciate the day itself.

Whenever I see old friends or someone mentions my mom and coming to our home when we were children, it seems that the same comment is made across the board—Those cookies your mom made with the powdered sugar were my favorite. To this day I get requests to make them or to share the recipe. Yesterday, I kicked off my baking marathon by making the famous Kourabeithes—butter cookies with crushed toasted almonds, blanketed in powdered sugar. My husband’s family calls them Petedespina cookies, named after My Aunt Despina and Uncle Pete who made platters of these cookies for each table at my wedding. You’ll find these cookies in a few shapes—crescents, discs (like my mom made them), or pyramid shaped. Aunt Despina made the pyramids and I always liked that shape the best, so although I use my mom’s recipe, I don’t make them the same shape she did. These cookies are easy to make, taste just as good after freezing and thawing, and they’re a crowd pleaser. This recipe yields about 140 cookies.


* Do this prep work ahead

Let butter sit out at room temperature

Toast almonds in oven for about 15 minutes at 350 degrees. Cool.

Zest and juice one orange.


2 lbs.-unsalted butter

2 tablespoons Crisco shortening

12 ounces slivered almonds, toasted and crushed

1 teaspoon vanilla

Zest and juice of 1 orange

4 tablespoons baking powder

2 eggs

4 tablespoons sugar

5 pound bag of flour

Rose water (optional)

Cream butter and Crisco shortening. Add crushed almonds. Add zest, juice, vanilla and baking powder. In a separate bowl, beat eggs and sugar, then add to the butter mixture. Add half the flour and mix well. Keep adding flour and mix with your hands until you get soft dough that can form a shape and not stick to your hands. You may not necessarily use the whole bag of flour. Shape into circle, crescent, or pyramid (similar to a Hershey kiss). Bake at 450 degrees until tops just begin to get slight golden color. The cookies should still be somewhat pale when you take them out. The amount of time in the oven will depend on the shape. I would say about 12- 18 minutes. The kiss shape takes the longest. Sprinkle with rosewater if you choose to use it. Cover the cookies with powdered sugar.

These freeze great. If you want to make weeks ahead, store them in a large container and freeze. Do not sprinkle with rosewater or powdered sugar until thawed.

Ms. Murray-Wilke Apple Bread


Still inundated with apples, I baked another family favorite that I discovered could be frozen and used for Thanksgiving. This apple “bread” is really not bread at all. It has no yeast—it’s more of a cake, but one I serve with dinner. I like to fill a breadbasket with squares of cornbread and apple bread to pass around the table, accompanied with maple syrup butter.

So where did this bread get it’s name? From my daughters’ AP literature teacher. Although an educator for over 30 years, Ms. Murray-Wilke was dedicated and enthusiastic until the day she retired. A passionate baker, she would bring cookies and cakes for her classes to enjoy while they discussed anything from Pride and Prejudice to Shakespeare or even Harry Potter. Her students adored her and many still keep in touch with her. She was generous enough to share her recipe, and when Alexa came home with a copy of it she begged me to make it, and the rest is, as they say—history! The ingredients remain the same, though I changed the method just a bit from the original copy.

*Just an idea- If you are looking to give a small gift to a friend or neighbor, or to bring a hostess gift to a party; this apple bread would make a wonderful gift. Simply wrap in cellophane and tie with a pretty bow.

Ms. Murray-Wilke Apple Bread

Makes one loaf

Pre-heat oven at 325 degrees F


½ cup unsalted butter, softened

1 cup sugar

2 eggs, beaten

1 Teaspoon vanilla

2 cups flour

½ Teaspoon salt

2 Tablespoons buttermilk or sour cream

1 Teaspoon baking soda

2 cups peeled, diced granny smith apples


2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

2 Tablespoons sugar

2 Tablespoons flour

1 Teaspoons cinnamon

2 Tablespoons chopped walnuts

*Hint- I like a lot of topping. I double the amount of topping on each bread. The choice is yours!


Make the topping first and set aside. Cream butter and sugar. Add flour, cinnamon and nuts. Mixture should resemble coarse crumbs.

For the batter- cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla, blend well.

In a separate bowl combine flour and salt. Stir flour mixture into egg and butter mixture. Dissolve baking soda in buttermilk: add to batter, mixing well. Peel and dice the apples now that the batter is done. I find that there is less of a chance of the apples turning brown this way. Stir in apples. Spoon batter into a well-greased and floured 9×5- inch loaf pan. Sprinkle with topping. Bake for 1 hour. Cool slightly before removing from pan. Cool on wire rack.

Easy and Delicious Apple Crisp


Columbus Day seems to be the day my family has traditionally chosen to go pumpkin picking. Some years the weather was cold—well by Effie standards anyway and other years it’s been warm. This year it was close to 80 degrees and I’m not complaining. For several years we tried to go pumpkin and apple picking in the same day. After discovering that the only apples left by October were the ones that either fell off the trees or that were discarded by the people who picked them in September, we knew we had to change our plan. So in Mid-September we went out East with our little niece and nephew and picked the most beautiful apples. 36 pounds later, I had to create something—a lot of something. Needless to say, the next few blogs will be dedicated to apples. On Halloween and Thanksgiving I make a tray of apple crisp. Last year I discovered I can freeze it and heat it after defrosting and the result is the same. This makes me sooo happy! It takes one project off me in the days leading to Thanksgiving. I made three trays of Apple crisp. The extra is for my neighbor, Richie, who waits every year for “apple crisp” season. But then, I got a brilliant idea! I’ve been collecting these little clay pots that Kalypso Greek yogurt is packaged in. I thought it would make a nice presentation to plate my apple crisp in individual servings for my Thanksgiving table. I did make other apple recipes with the 36 pounds of apples. You will have to wait and see what they are. In the meantime enjoy this easy-to-make apple crisp.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees


1/3 cup packed brown sugar

2 ½ tablespoons flour

1 teaspoon cinnamon

8 cups of peeled, cored and coarsely sliced granny smith apples

Juice and zest of 1 lemon

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

½ teaspoon vanilla


1½ cups flour

1 ½ cups old-fashioned rolled oats

¾ cup packed brown sugar

¾ cup chopped walnuts or pecans

1 teaspoon cinnamon

2 sticks unsalted butter, melted

When I am doing anything with apples I am conscious of them turning brown. For this reason I prep as much as possible ahead of time and leave the peeling of the apples for last. Make the topping first and set it aside. Simply mix all the topping ingredients together and mix well.

For the filling – In a large bowl, stir together the brown sugar, flour, and cinnamon. Melt the butter, juice and zest the lemon. As I peel a few apples I toss with the lemon juice. I keep adding apples and lemon juice as I keep peeling to coat well. The lemon juice keeps the apples from turning brown. After the apples are peeled, add the melted butter, the brown sugar mixture and the vanilla, tossing well to coat.

In a greased baking dish, spread the filling evenly. Bake for 25 minutes. (15 minutes for the individual crocks)

Press the topping evenly over the filling and bake for another 25 minutes. (10-15 minutes for individuals)

If you are planning to freeze, I suggest reducing the cooking time by 10 to 15 minutes. Let the apple crisp completely cool before storing in the freezer.

Serving suggestion- Spoon vanilla ice cream or Greek yogurt over the warm apple crisp.


Galaktoboureko – Easier to make than it is to pronounce!


What is this strange sounding pastry? It’s a milk and egg based custard held together by layers of buttered phyllo. What separates this Greek dessert from its French and Italian counterparts are two ingredients. Farina or semolina is added to the milk and eggs, giving it a slightly firmer texture, without losing the delicateness you’d expect from a pastry cream. The second ingredient is a simple syrup, which is poured over the pastry after coming out of the oven. You will need to taste this to fully understand the moistness this adds to this wonderful dessert.

We hear Crème Brûlée, profiteroles, and now I am introducing you to galaktoboureko—and we get intimidated. We’ve convinced ourselves that they are labor intensive or difficult to make. Let me assure you—they are not. Do not let the names fool you. If you can follow instructions, you can make any of these desserts.

Two days ago, it was my niece, Athena’s, twenty-first birthday. Three hours before I was to arrive at her party, I decided to make galaktoboureko. Using a 9×13 glass baking dish, I made one large pastry and cut it in squares. You can also make individual rolls by rolling the phyllo as you would an eggroll.


8 cups milk

1 ½ cups sugar

1 ½ cups farina

6 eggs, beaten

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 tablespoon vanilla


1 pound phyllo

1 cup unsalted butter, melted


1 ½ cups water

1 ½ cups sugar

2 tablespoons fresh orange juice

2 strips orange peel

2 cinnamon sticks

In a pot, place milk, sugar, vanilla and farina. Stir until mix through. Add the beaten eggs and stir. Place over medium heat and simmer, constantly stirring. It will take a while for custard to thicken. Keep stirring. When the custard thickens, remove from the heat and add the butter. Stir until the butter has melted and mixed through. Place the custard in a bowl and cover with saran wrap. Allow the custard to cool. You can put it in the refrigerator while you prepare the phyllo, but not for too long. Butter a 9×13 inch pan. Using half of the package of phyllo, butter each sheet with a pastry brush and place it in the pan. Keep layering the sheets until you have finished the first half of the phyllo. With a large spoon or ladle, add all the custard over the phyllo. Layer and butter the remaining phyllo—one sheet at a time on top of the custard. Brush the top with butter. Tuck in the edges of any overlapping phyllo. Score with a sharp knife into squares and bake at 350 degrees F for 1 hour.

In the meantime, combine the water, sugar, orange juice, orange peel and cinnamon sticks, and simmer for 20 minutes. Set aside to cool. When the galaktoboureko comes out of the oven, drizzle with the syrup.

Let the pastry cool a little before attempting to remove the squares neatly. This will be your biggest challenge. This pastry tastes best when it’s still warm.

Easy, Right? If you want to try this, but you are still not sure you want to try your hand at baking, attend one of the many Greek festivals this summer. Just about every Long Island Church will hold their annual festival during the summer. Last weekend I went to the Festival in the Hamptons and at the end of August Port Jefferson will hold their festival. The pastries are all homemade by the Women’s group in the church, as is most of the delicious food. Find out where the festivals are in your state.