Nov 19, 2013
These treats have always been our family’s way to celebrate the new walnut (Greek-καρύδια) crop. I remember my grandmother preparing them for the celebration of the Archangels Gabriel and Michael on the 8th of November. Their tiny chapel is in a village next to ours and, on the day, everyone would bring homemade cakes, treats, or hot coffee and tea to be shared in the chapel’s yard after the service. As a kid it was the only time I really looked forward to going to church because I could sample so many sweets in one morning. At the end of spring, before they could spoil and became tangy from the summer heat, my grandmother would use the remaining walnuts to make a final batch.
I thought I’d try a healthier version of this treat using honey and oats instead of the sugar and grated wheat rusks the original recipe called for, and I’m happy it really worked.
Nov 3, 2013
Vanilla cream is one of those archetypical and international recipes people have followed since they discovered that by combining milk with egg and flour; you can make a very nutritious and hearty food. In international pastry circles, this cream is called a ‘’pudding’’ and it is also used as a filling for pastries; when in Greece we call it ’krema” and, dusted with cinnamon, it can be found both in super markets and traditional milk shops.
Vanilla cream reminds me of my childhood probably because I ate so many bowls of it back then. It’s been a long time since I last had some, and now that the weather is a bit chilly, I thought it would be a good idea to revive these post-school afternoon vanilla creams.
Oct 16, 2013
The French term fricassee refers to meat cooked by a method somewhere between a sauté and a stew and served with a white sauce. It is a mystery how this term came to define a totally different thing in Greek cuisine. We Greeks call fricassee (φρικασέ) any meat or even fish, that is cooked with greens and thickened with avgolémono (egg and lemon) sauce. The most popular Greek fricassee calls for lamb with wild greens and herbs. In Greece we love wild greens which are collected in the country side, from September to May, and most often cooked in plenty of water and served as a salad seasoned with olive oil and lemon juice. Of course all kinds of greens such as kale, chicory or even lettuce can be used in a fricassee.
Sep 20, 2013
Moussaka (moussakás in Greek) comes from the Arabic word musaqa‘h which, oddly enough, means something chilled. The Greek version, however, comes hot out of the oven and is probably the most famous Greek dish of all. Several variations and cooking methods are found in many Mediterranean cuisines. Most versions are based on sautéed eggplant and tomato, usually with minced meat. The Greek version includes layers of meat and eggplant topped with a Béchamel ("white") sauce. Béchamel was another import - introduced in the late 1920’s to Greek cuisine by the famous Greek chef Nicholas Tselementes, a great admirer of French cuisine. He brought many more innovations to Greek cuisine and his influence is still felt. In the old days, before béchamel, moussaka was topped with a cream made with yogurt, eggs and a little flour.
Other variations include adding more sautéed vegetable slices. Zucchini and potatoes are popular additions.
Sep 9, 2013
Everyone loves the wonderful taste of sun dried tomatoes. When you pick a small jar of them in the super market it is hard to imagine just how many ripe tomatoes needed to dry out, in order to fill this small jar. Tomatoes are more than 90% water by weight. The prospect of reducing them is one of the reasons why some people seem to find store bought ones easier to use although the truth is that homemade sun dried tomatoes are tastier by far.
At the end of August till late September we usually harvest many ripe tomatoes. They are at the peak of their season and although we use them in salads and give them away to friends, they are always too many to consume while perfect and ripe. This year we made ketchup, sauce for pasta and, of course, our favorite meze: sun dried tomatoes. The weather was hot (33 C) with low moisture so it only took 2 days for the tomato fillets to dry out. We only had the classic round tomatoes to work with so we cut four fillets from each tomato (you need skin-on slices). If you are not lucky enough to grow your own tomatoes, you can find wonderful tomatoes at the farmers’ markets at this time of the year at very reasonable prices. Even if the weather is not that hot in your country you can always make your own ‘’sun dried’’ style tomatoes in the oven. You can even choose how dry you prefer your tomatoes, but keep in mind that the less you dry them the faster you should consume them.