Filed under: cook book
Bet you haven’t heard that word before! That’s Greek for (female) cousin and last week I invited a bunch of my cousins over, and as is typical, it’s the girl cousins who came.
I made kalitsunia (ricotta filled fried turnovers), butternut squash gratin, galactobouriko (custard filo dessert), kalouria (simple cookie), and cinnamon iced tea and my lovely cousins provided the rest. As you can see from the pictures there was a TON of food. I will not remember it all, but we had skordalia, vegetable stew, tzatziki, dolmathes, taramasolata, spiced nuts, feta, corn salad, Leni’s mixed green salad, strawberry cream cake, and pumpkin bread…of course there was wine and coffee. It was a groaning board for sure! I’m still eating the leftovers.
And as always we laughed, shared family stories, and created some new ones. My cousin Nikki asked me to autograph her copy of my new book and I managed to misspell her name…and had to insert the letter “l” into the word “health”! No wonder mom used to advise me to practice writing thank you cards on a piece of paper before I actually wrote in the card. I plan on hosting these get togethers several times a year. I think it’s wonderful that we enjoy each other’s company and get together for no reason at all other than to eat, visit, and laugh.
My nieces came over for dinner yesterday. It was dinner and Skype day, a way for us to all visit with Claire. I always let them choose what they’d like to eat and they requested Greek, so this time I did an easy Greek family dinner. The kind of dinner we had often growing up. I served Grilled Lamb Chops with Oregano and Lemon Juice, Stewed Romano Beans, Roasted Fingerling Potatoes with Garlic, Parsley, and Lemon, and Revani (semolina cake) with Yogurt and Apricot Jam. I kindly let my nieces suffer smelling and looking at the food while we chatted with Claire…bad planning on my part! No doubt it shortened up our Skype time with Claire.
We had simple broiled lamb chops at least once a week, for dinner. It was Dads job to season the meat so he’d douse them with Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and lots of dried oregano and let them sit until dinner time. Mom always broiled them in our wonderful broiler on top of our Chambers stove. The top of the broiler was used as a griddle, it is a fabulous design and I don’t know why modern stoves have the broilers in a drawer on the bottom of the oven where I never use it. Instead I cook my chops in a cast iron skillet and finish them in the oven. The stewed beans are a family favorite, even folks who don’t like vegetables will like these beans. I love making them when the flat buttery Romano beans are in season. The recipe for the beans will be in the Mom Was Right cookbook. The potatoes are very easy, wash about a pound of fingerling potatoes and put them in a large bowl. Heat the oven to 375. Add 3T melted butter, 2 T olive oil, and 2 t salt to the bowl with the potatoes and coat well. Spoon the potatoes onto a cookie sheet with sides. Pour about 1C chicken stock in the pan with the potatoes and roast until tender, about 25 minutes. In a small bowl mince 2 cloves garlic, zest from one lemon, and about 2 T fresh parsley, sprinkle the mixture over the potatoes and serve. This makes enough for 4-6 servings.
Revani is a simple yogurt semolina cake. Because it has a soaking syrup it lasts a long time. Mom loved this cake because she liked to enjoy a piece of plain cake to have with coffee for breakfast.
1 C Greek yogurt
1/2 C sugar
2 t vanilla
1/4 C butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 1/4 C semolina flour
1 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1 C sugar
1 C water
zest (be sure to not include the white part since it will make the syrup bitter) of one orange
Heat oven to 350. Butter a 9×9 or 8×8 pan, set aside.
In a medium bowl whisk together yogurt, eggs, sugar, and vanilla. Stir in the butter and add the semolina, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and bake about 25-35 minutes or until the cake is firm in the middle. While the cake is baking make the soaking syrup.
In a medium saucepan combine the sugar and water and place over a high heat and stir until the sugar dissolves. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, add the orange zest and let the mixture simmer for five minutes. Once the cake has baked, pour the syrup over the cake. There is lots of debate about whether or not you pour hot syrup over a hot cake, or hot syrup over a room temperature cake, I always pour hot syrup over a hot cake and it works fine, so do what best suits your cooking schedule.
Once cool cut the cake into serving pieces and serve with a dollop of yogurt and either fresh apricots or apricot jam.
Last weekend I visited Claire in her new apartment in NYC…well sorta new, she’s lived there since August. We had four days of great meals, lots of fun. We also experienced annoying rain in the face and scary windy moments during the weekend thanks to hurricane Joaquin!
Between the plane ride and the taxi ride in from JFK I arrived a bit air sick and I spent the first moments in NY at 1:00AM walking around Manhattan with Claire while I got my land legs back. Claire shares an apartment on the upper East Side, in Yorkville with two roommates. The apartment is cute and recently refurbished.
Originally we had planned to spend Friday at Coney Island, a place neither of us have been to, but because the weather was wet, cold, and windy we changed our plans. We are not early risers, so when we were ready it was pretty late, but we were hungry and looking for breakfast.
Claire’s Godparents, John and Ann live in Manhattan and have exposed Claire to many wonderful restaurants, so we took a page from the John and Ann guide to dining in NY and went to two of their favorites. We had breakfast at the Luxembourg which is on the West Side. It’s a funky 50′s style upscale diner, can’t think of a better way to describe it. You can see the red booths in the picture. However in spite of it’s decor the restaurant is 38 years old. The food is fabulous and the ambience warm and inviting and you definitely need a reservation most of the time. They stop serving breakfast at 11:30 so we made it under he wire by arriving at 11. We ordered the banana bread with apple and peanut butter as our first course, and Claire ordered the baked eggs which came under a golden dome of parmesan cheese, absolutely delicious, runny yolks to dip toast into. I ordered the creamed mushrooms on toast with a poached egg. It was perfect and one of those dishes that will make returning to the Luxembourg a priority whenever I’m in NY.
We then tired to “enjoy” a walk through the park and headed to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The wind, the rain, and the cold made any kind of strolling uncomfortable, but the museum was warm and dry and as wonderful as always. And, as always, I was polite during the exhibits biding my time until I could look at the jewelry in the museum store. When I lived in the east coast I visited the museum two times before I actually went INTO the museum. I’d go to the store and leave.
At breakfast we purchased tickets to see The Christians and made pre theater dinner reservations at another John and Ann find, The Little Owl in the west village. The Little Owl is a charming cosy place with excellent service and wonderful food. I knew I was home when I saw the poster of Tom Jones in the bathroom! Claire and I split basil gnocchi as our first course, and the roast chicken for our entree, and apple strudel for dessert. The kitchen very kindly actually split every course for us, which was no easy feat when it came to the chicken since it was half a chicken cooked under a brick. The gnocchi was fluffy with just the right touch of basil, not over powering at all. The chicken was everything chicken should be, the skin was crispy, buttery, and salty, the meat was tender and it was served with caramelized Brussels sprouts with bacon. Dessert was warm and buttery served with ice cream. Once again our plans to stroll around the west village and meander our way towards the theater were thwarted by the weather and after a few blocks we hopped a cab to the theater.
The Christians was good. It’s a story of a very large fundamental Christian church whose pastor decides that there is no hell. When he presents this concept to his congregants it begins a process of dismantling his church and his roll as pastor.
Saturday we took the train to Stamford, CT to pick up a rental car for the weekend. I no longer want to drive around Manhattan. It’s cheaper to rent a car outside of Manhattan and there is pick up and drop off at the Stamford station, so we picked up our car and headed to Brown University to visit Claire’s friend Christine.
Brown is in Providence Rhode Island and on the way to Cape Cod where we were spending two nights. We toured the campus and headed towards downtown for a late lunch or early dinner. We wandered into a tapas place called Bocado. Bocado is a fun welcoming place with brightly colored chairs and artsy wait staff. We ordered empanadas, paella, roasted Brussels sprouts with ham, and a decidedly un Spanish but classic New England mac and cheese with lobster. Dessert was a warm pecan tart with ice cream and caramel sauce…again, not typically Spanish, but good is good no matter what the cuisine!
We left Providence late and got to drive two lane roads in complete darkness against robust winds, but fortunately no rain to Yarmouth where we were staying. We found really inexpensive lodging right on the water since it’s off season. In fact I discovered we were there the second to last weekend before they closed for the winter. We stayed at the Riviera Resort, which I can imagine is completely full in the summer with a large pool and beach, but last weekend there were a handful of people staying there. The next morning we enjoyed a long walk along the beach and were captivated by the odd large shells we found along the beach that are apparently the abandoned home of crabs.
We asked the front desk for a breakfast recommendation and she suggested a small house turned diner called Ann and Frans. I assume the woman serving us was Ann or Fran, she served massive platters of pancakes (mine pumpkin, Claire’s blueberry) and meat and eggs. The food was good, the atmosphere welcoming, and if I was in that neck of the woods, I’d go back.
We drove along the main stretch of road and pulled off to check out little towns here or there, and I had a lobster roll for lunch. I love lobster rolls and it’s increasingly hard to find them in the East Bay so I was determined to have one while I was in New England. I have to say, it was good, but not as good as some. I think I really should have tried to find a lobster shack.
Dinner was pizza in our room, good pizza from a family owned non-chain place, so that was a nice. Then we made our way back to NYC. We stopped at Mystic Connecticut and by then the skies were sunny and blue and Mystic sparkled! We lucked into a fabulous lunch spot called Oyster Co. We were seated upstairs with views of the water and I had my second lobster roll! This one was a hot lobster roll served with paprika butter with 5 whole ounces of lobster! They served it with yuka fries, and it was delicious. We split the lobster roll and had spinach dip and an apple pecan salad.
After what seemed like FOREVER, but was really only about 3 hours we pulled back into Stamford, dropped off the car and trained into NYC getting off at the Harlem Station which was a nice surprise since it had been restored and had the original wood. We cabbed it to Claire’s, dumped our stuff, speed walked to Whole Foods to buy ingredients, rushed back loaded down. Unloaded the groceries and hopped a cab to Anassa Taverna on East 60th. We discovered Anassa when Claire was living near there. It’s a large lovely space with upscale Greek food. John joined us for dinner and he ordered the seafood risotto, Claire had the roast chicken, and I had the lamb chops. The special that night was Dolmathes in Avgolemono which is what I really wanted but it was sold out by the time we arrived. Everyone’s dinner was excellent and John’s dish was loaded with shellfish. We each ordered dessert not realizing the generous portions. Claire ordered Kataifi, which was a base of Kataifi (shredded filo), a thick layer of custard, more kataifi, and whipped cream. I ordered Galactobouriko, one of my favorite Greek desserts, and a test to see if they can make it as good as I do! I was delivered a slab of Galactorbouriko! Enough for dinner and breakfast, and it was good. It was warmed and the pastry was very crisp and the custard delicate with a touch of vanilla. John ordered Karithopita, which is a spice nut cake, another favorite dessert of mine, and this was a good rendition. Claire went home with a bag of leftovers which is every college students dream. After we got home I made lasagna and spanakopita and showed her how to do a 15 minute supper of sautéed chicken and greens. We spent one last night in her little room before I spent hours traveling home.
We typically fly Virgin since they seem to have the best prices and most direct flights from SFO to JFK, but the Virgin terminal in NY is nothing like the terminal in SFO. I was happy to find a place that actually made sandwiches to order, so I ordered one for the flight. In SFO they have The Plant so I was able to have a Grapefruit and Avocado Salad and a Chicken Wrap to take on my flight to NY. When I arrived back at SFO I stopped to enjoy a Pinkberry before getting on BART and heading home.
All in all, a great trip!
This summer I created recipes for The Anti-Inflammatory Diet & Action Plans, which is being released on October 21st!
The Anti-Inflammatory Diet & Action Plans is a cookbook with four different meal plans and over 130 recipes that serve one purpose—healing your inflammation. Whether you love carbs or hate them, need meat or eschew it, there’s an anti-inflammatory diet that’s right for you.
Claire won’t be coming home for Thanksgiving this year so we did what every red blooded American does, we used that as an excuse to have Thanksgiving in August! Thanksgiving is one of my favorite meals…and is a lovely surprise when eaten off season. Because of the hot weather this was Thanksgiving “light”. I mean who needs three pies and biscuits on a warm day? It didn’t stop us from having Roast Turkey Breast, Mashed Potatoes, Stuffing, Roasted Carrots, Gravy, and Giada De Lorentis’ Walnut Rosemary Tart, and a classic No Bake Cheesecake. Oh! And the cranberry sauce that’s in a can that comes out in the shape of a can? Can’t forget that!
I’ve covered most of the traditional Thanksgiving foods already on this blog, so I’ll talk about Giada’s tart recipe, here’s the link:
I used pecans instead of walnuts and I cut the quantity of rosemary in half. I do like herbs in dessert, but I like them as a hint, not a dominent flavor. The tart is good, very sweet and buttery, almost candy-like, and I liked the orange whipped cream with it.
And now for the No Bake Cheesecake, this is a recipe I used to make almost every day when I worked at the Egg Shop And Apple Press. It’s super easy, and delicious. I like to serve it with two pints of raspberries mixed with about 1/4 C of raspberry jam. I kind of squish the berries with the jam, I like their tart sweet flavor with the cool and creamy cheesecake.
No Bake Cheesecake
1 sleeve graham crackers, crushed
1/2 C butter melted
2 T sugar
1 t cinnamon (optional)
1 pound cream cheese, room temperature
1 can (14oz.) sweetened condensed milk
1/4 C fresh lemon juice
2 t vanilla
1 C sour cream
2 T powdered sugar
1 t vanilla
Combine the graham cracker crumbs, butter, sugar, and cinnamon in a small bowl until the graham cracker crumbs are moistened by the butter. Press the mixture into an 8×8 or 9×9 pan.
Beat the cream cheese until fluffy, add the sweetened condensed milk, lemon juice, and vanilla and beat until smooth. Spoon mixture over the crust, cover and chill at least an hour (or longer if you have the time). After an hour remove the cheesecake from the fridge. In a small bowl combine the sour cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla. Spoon the sour cream over the chilled cheesecake, cover and chill until ready to serve.
A few weeks ago I had invited a couple of friends over for a nice weekend lunch. My friends love it when I cook Greek so I decided to do a Greek inspired menu. I had originally planned on a Swiss chard pie, Potato Wedges fried in Olive Oil, an Orange Walnut Cake with Honey Whipped Cream, but as the week progressed the weather got hotter and hotter and hotter and my poor little house is about 10 degrees even hotter than it is outside, so the whole menu changed. I decided on a mostly uncooked meal. I made Skordalia-the addictive garlic mashed potato dip that my family makes so well, of course Olives and Feta, Cucumbers with Tomatoes with Olive Oil and Red Wine Vinegar, warm Naan bread (I find it’s easier to find fresh Naan bread than it is pita bread, the pita bread in the stores I shop in is often very dry), Lamb Meat Ball Skewers, Marcona Almonds and Quicks-Spanish Cornuts (not Greek but delicious), and canned Gigantes, giant white beans. For dessert I chose an Chocolate Avocado Mousse with Olive Oil and Sea Salt, very definitely NOT Greek, but involves no cooking, is ready in minutes and is delicious.
I love meals like this, just put everything on the table at once, provide an icy beverage-I did a cucumber mint iced tea, and sit down and enjoy your guests along with the food. There was enough leftover for me to invite my nieces over to enjoy round two.
The recipe for the Chocolate Avocado Mousse will be in my book coming out in October the Anti-Inflammatory Action Plan published by Callisto Media. The Skordalia recipe will be in my book entitled Mom Was Right…Greek Recipes and Wisdom.
Here’s the recipe for the Lamb Meat Ball Skewers
1 pound ground lamb
1 pound ground beef
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 bu. green onion, sliced thin
1 T fresh oregano, chopped
2 t salt
1/2 t freshly ground pepper
12 skewers (shorter skewers that are flat work best for this recipe)
Olive oil for brushing the pan and the skewers1 lemon
Place all ingredients except the skewers in a medium bowl and mix to combine well. Divide the mixture into 12 equal pieces and shape into a sausage-like shape. Skewer each sausage with a skewer and place on an oiled baking sheet while your shaping the rest of the meatballs. Once all the skewers have been made brush with olive oil, and heat a stove top (or outdoor) grill until the grill is hot. Cook the skewers about three to four minutes a side, or until the meat is nice and brown. Once all the skewers have been cooked squeeze lemon juice over them. Let sit about 5 minutes before serving so the juices stay in the meat.
Makes 12 skewers.
I had some very expensive uber high quality sprouted blue cornmeal in my pantry which I noticed was about to expire. That’s one of my issues, I love trying out new products but after an initial recipe or two I forget and move onto the next new ingredient. When I worked at Whole Foods this was fabulous because vendors were always providing me with samples, and I thoroughly enjoyed my job which involved me tasting and testing the products and writing about them…but I digress. Who doesn’t love a corn muffin? And who doesn’t love a corn muffin with blueberries in it? And who doesn’t love the song Blue on Blue….heartache on heartache….ok well, I don’t. But I couldn’t resist naming this recipe Blue on Blue
Blue on Blue Corn Muffins
Almost gluten free, very low gluten…so you can pretend you’re eating gluten free when you eat these!
1 C flour
1 C blue cornmeal
1/2 C sugar
1 T baking powder
1 t salt
3/4 C milk
1/2 C coconut oil, melted and cooled
1 t vanilla
1 pint blueberries, washed and picked over to remove stems
1/3 C slivered almonds
1/3 C sugar
Heat oven to 375. Butter, or place cupcake liners in a 12 muffin pan.
Combine dry ingredients in a medium bowl. Add milk, coconut oil, egg, and vanilla and stir to combine. Stir in blueberries.
Spoon batter into muffin tins filling only 2/3 full. Sprinkle each muffin with slivered almonds and sugar. Bake about 25 minutes or until muffins are brown around the edges and are firm in the middle.
I love eating these warm with blackberry jam. When I make them I keep them in the freezer and heat them up in the toaster oven for breakfast.
Since I am into all things food, one of the things I do is recipe development. Recently I had the pleasure to develop 12 recipes using several different brands and varietals for a wine broker. The recipes belong to my client, so I can’t provide them here, but we can show you the finished dishes. The big fun was having family over on MLK for a tasting of the wine and dishes. Here are some pictures of the project.
Do you have a product or ingredient that you would like to explore various applications for? I can expertly customize recipes that bring out the best qualities of your product. I develop original recipes for a special events, restaurants, bars, as well as recipes designed to boost retail food and beverage sales. If you are looking for a Recipe developer place see my Recipe development page. For more photos click here.
My fathers family is from Corfu and the last time I was there was for about four days in 1977, and I must say, it has’t changed much.
Corfu is stunning, it’s almost tropical weather creates the best of both worlds, a tropical Mediterranean island. Thick vegetation everywhere, great vistas from high mountains, and unbelievable beautiful crystal clear beaches.
We made a lucky internet find by booking at Brentanos Apartments. Since we were going to be there for 6 days I wanted a room with a kitchen, and Brentanos is designed to give you all that you want, nice large pool, rooms with balconies and kitchens, and a spectacular view of the ocean. Because of the island hopping flight schedule we ended up arriving at Brentanos way before check in time. They had just completed serving breakfast to guests when we descended on them, a party of 5 and they were as gracious as could be. We asked if it would be possible to get breakfast and without hesitation they began to set up a table for us and fed us. After we lounged by the pool, swam, and checked email while our rooms were readied. My room was charming and comfortable and I made sure to spend plenty of time enjoying my balcony, imprinting the smells, sites, and gentle breezes of Corfu in my memory. The hotel is operated by Costas and Helena Brentanos, it’s a family business which also includes one of their two daughters Yiota. They are lovely people, they added a richness to our visit to Corfu. They offered wonderful tips about where to eat and what to see, and suggested a really delicious restaurant in Corfu town for Claire’s 19th birthday. I know that if I return they are very much a part of the reason why,
Corfu town is very much a busy Venetian city. The Italian influence in Corfu is different than the influence in Crete. Crete feels more Greek, Mediterranean, whereas Corfu feels more European/Greek. My father had very clear blue eyes, light brown hair, and a pale complexion which fit right in with the citizens of Corfu. Pretty much everyone living in Corfu is thrilled to be there and it shows. People are relaxed and happy. The rest of Greece is very economically depressed but so far Corfu has’t been hit as hard.
Corfu is an island where you really need a car. There is a municipal bus, but it’s rout is limited to several major cities around Corfu town. For the rest, you need a car, or some other motorized vehicle, however Crete’s roads look like LA highways compared to the roads of Corfu! At least most of the roads in Crete have names! Driving is a real crap shoot in Corfu, just be open minded and not too committed to where you’re going and you should be alright. Good news is the island isn’t that big.
The food is good in Corfu and there are plenty of interesting places to eat. In Corfu town I walked past a Cretan Slow Food restaurant, and found a bakery that offered a comprehensive selection of Greek pastries that were dairy and or gluten free! I had two favorite meals in Corfu, the first was at a fish restaurant right on the water, and when I say right on the water I mean it. A simple platform was built over the water on the beach. Surrounded by water, eating delicious simple food, sipping wine, there’s nothing better. I believe we had a three hour lunch that day. The second was The Rex where we celebrated Claire’s birthday. This was a continental style restaurant with table cloths. Excellent service and thoughtfully prepared food. My family has many hilarious stories about celebrating birthdays in Greece. The Greeks don’t do birthdays like Americans do, so it is often baffling to them. For Claire’s birthday the restaurant took some Karithopita (a nut cake) and formed it into a mound and lavishly decorated it with cream and cherries, a site to behold! Claire’s godmother had the good sense to come prepared with birthday candles, otherwise I’m sure we would have ended up blowing out a classic 6-inch tapered candle!
Claire and I had an adventure when we decided to visit the Achilleion Palace. This was built by Empress Elisabeth of Austria. It reminds me a bit of the Hearst Castle in that someone chose an impossible location to build a palace. The Palace is a short drive behind the Brentanos Hotel, and Yiota was kind enough to give Claire and I a ride to the palace. The palace has spectacular views, peaceful gardens and lovely breezes and is often used for weddings and events. It’s a great place to go at the end of the day to enjoy the transition into evening.
It may have taken only 10 minutes to get there but it took us hours to get back! We missed the entrance to the unmarked dirt road back to our hotel and ended up wandering down the road to find ourselves 10 kilometers away from our hotel! Thankfully the hotel we wondered into called us a cab so we were spared trudging 10K back!
I’ve been to Greece many times, and every time I leave, I can’t wait to go back. Even though I’m second generation, and I am California born and bred, and LOVE it here, Greece feels like home