Mar 1, 2014
Almond based confections or amygdalotá (αμυγδαλωτά) as we call them are found all over Greece in endless versions. They can be shaped like pears, balls, or little logs and are usually flavored with scented flower blossom water, a liquor or, less often, with vanilla. They are often sold filled with jam or chocolate ganache and resemble French macaroons.
Amygdalotá in many Aegean islands are a special little treat symbolizing happiness and prosperity and offered to guests at weddings and Christenings,.
The version of amygdalotá I made today is found in pastry shops all over the country. They are plainer than the filled versions and made with a higher ratio of almond meal.
Feb 13, 2014
What might characterize our family meals in Greece is the variety of dishes served. Housewives rarely cook only one dish for the family and, even when they do, three or more side dishes are usually served as well. We love little bites of this and that, what we call mezedes; they are most often cheese, olives, pickles, all sorts of savory spreads,and flaky pies with fillings that vary according to the season of the year. Preparing them at home demands some effort but they cost less and offer flavorful snacksevery day.
Meze bites are also served when you want to have a snack with your wine, beer or ouzo but not eat an actual meal. In Greece there are restaurants that serve only meze dishes from an endless list; these places are called ‘’mezedopolia’’ (μεζεδοπωλεία).
Feta balls are a wonderful meze to prepare ahead and can be served straight from the jar to the table or spread on slices of bread. Toasting the bread with feta under the grill for a few minutes provides a filling and impressive warm meze.
Makes about 20 bite size balls
150gr crushed feta
150gr fresh mizithra* or ricotta cheese
1tbsp finely chopped sundried tomatoes
1tbsp chopped dill
Salt and pepper to taste
250gr olive oil, or enough to cover the feta balls in the jar
Fresh or dry oregano
Dry chili pepper flakes (optional)
In a bowl place feta, mizithra or ricotta, sun dried tomatoes,dill, salt and pepper and mix with a wooden spatula until combined.
Pour the olive oil in the jar, add the oregano and chili flakes and mix with a spoon to combine.
Form bite-size balls from the feta mixture and place them in the jar with the aromatic olive oil. Let them stand for a few hours before you serve them so the flavors combine. You can store these feta balls in the fridge for 3 weeks.
*Mizithra is made from raw, whole sheep or goat milk in the simplest way possible: milk is brought to a slow boil for a few minutes and then curdled by adding rennet or whey from a previous batch), or simply something acidic, e.g. lemon juice or vinegar. As soon as the curds have formed, they are poured into a cheesecloth bag which is hung to drain. After a few days, mizithra has formed into a soft mass which is sweet and moist, and has been moulded in the shape of the hanging bag At this stage it is called "sweet" or "fresh mizithra" and may be used as is. Otherwise it is rubbed with coarse salt and left to age even more. It can ultimately turn into a very dense, hard, white cheese that is suitable for fine grating. In Greek cuisine, it is the most common and favourite cheese for pasta.
Jan 27, 2014
Baking slices of bread twice has always been a popular method to expand the life of fresh bread. Nomads, fishermen, - anyone away from home with no means to get fresh bread, could use the dry, twice-baked slices of bread by rehydrating it (often with wine in Greece) and in this way have a filling meal or snack.
In Greece we still use a lot of twice-baked slices of bread which we call paximádia (παξιμάδια). These are mostly made with wheat flour, corn polenta, or even barley. In Crete they are called dácos (ντάκος). Mostly served as an appetizer, paximádia are often topped with finely chopped tomato and feta, or crushed in salads for taste and texture.
Sweet paximadia, made from lightly sweetened dough, with olive oil and citrus zest, is a vegan version similar to the Italian biscotti. It is a healthy cookie for morning coffee, and an always available homemade treat for guests.
Jan 12, 2014
Greece is not famous for street food but in cities around the country you will always come across someone either standing by a little glass kiosk or carrying a huge tray selling just one thing: deliciously crunchy and chewy freshly baked bread rings. Kouloúria are the classic breakfast or mid morning snack for almost every busy office worker or visitor to the center.
These bread rings are called ‘kouloúria Thessalonikis’ The word kouloúri means something coiled or circular and it is such a perfect description that the ancient Greeks used the same word, kolyria, to describe their bread treats. Around the eastern Mediterranean such bread rings are also known as known as simit or simiti.
In the old days paper thin pieces of yellow hard cheese were sold with the bread rings for those who wanted a more filling snack.
Kouloúria have never stopped being popular and, generation after generation, people who appreciate their nutritional value have continued to buy them from street vendors or bakeries. The sesame seeds which cover the surface of every koulouria are loaded with vitamins and minerals and are rich in protein (25 percent by weight). And better yet, one delicious bread ring has no more than 100 calories.
Dec 22, 2013
Here in the Peloponnese, along with the all time classic melomacarona and kourampiedes cookies, we also make diples (δίπλες) for the Christmas and New Year season. Diples, a word which means ‘’folded’’ in Greek, are made of thin sheet-like dough rolled into long, thin strips, folded, then fried in hot oil, and dipped in syrup. Folding the dough in hot oil demands a little experience; but you can make diples in all sorts of simple shapes, - the most common are bow ties and free form geometric.
Diples are served drizzled with honey, chopped walnuts and cinnamon.
In Crete the tradition is to make dairy and egg free diples, mostly for weddings. These are called xerotigana (ξεροτήγανα) and are made with really long thin zigzag strips of dough formed into spirals and of course served with honey and chopped walnuts . These last two ingredients symbolize prosperity, fertility, and joy in Greek tradition.