Several of us daughters of the Dimotakis family have birthdays in January and February, and those of us who live close to each other have made it our tradition to get together during our birthday months to have lunch or dinner at Kokkari, our favorite local Greek restaurant and today was the day. Typically we bring some birthday trinket for all the guests and mine is always edible. This year I started noodling on the idea of a walnut shortbread cookie with Greek honey in it. I wanted there to be Greek flavors, but not so intense that you lose the nice buttery shortbread flavor so I started with my classic shortbread recipe and added honey, cinnamon, and orange zest, and decreased the flour by a half cup since I was adding one and a half cups of chopped walnuts, and I am very pleased with the result. The cookies came out crisp, buttery, with a full mouth flavor of walnuts and the aftertaste of cinnamon and orange. It’s a keeper!
Kokkari is located in San Francisco on Jackson, right next to the now defunct and famous McArthur Park restaurant. Before Kokkari became Kokkari there used to be a restaurant called CIAO there, owned by the same restaurant group that owned McArthur Park, I know these things because my husband used to work for both restaurants. In any case, once CAIO closed Kokkari moved in and it is a high end Greek restaurant with lovely atmosphere. It’s hard to impress a bunch of Greeks at a Greek restaurant but they do such a good job that we keep coming back. Their moussaka is the best I’ve ever had. And I LOVE their taramsolata. Typically we get a large assortment of appetizers for our meal but today most of us felt like having a entree instead. I had the lamb souvlaki which is something I almost never order because my Dad made world class souvlaki, but I must say, I enjoyed every bit of my order. They didn’t taste anything like Dads, but they were delicious, well seasoned with cumin and cooked perfectly skewered with grilled tomatoes and onions. They came with a mound of garbanzo beans and tzatziki and everything was drizzled with golden olive oil. I enjoyed every bite of it. My cousins had the goat stew which I didn’t taste (and now wish I had!), but they both thoroughly enjoyed theirs. Another cousin had the lentil soup and the baked feta cheese which was delicious. Half of us had Greek coffee (metreo for me-which means a little sweet) and glika-sweet for Maria) and for dessert we tried the risogalo (rice pudding) which is always good, it’s like a sweet thick risotto with a roasted pear on top, and a platter of assorted kalouria (cookies). The assorted cookie platter was very generous with little pieces of baklava, courambiethes, stuffed dates, kalouria, loukoumi, and a few other bite-sized sweets. And in honor of my father I chose the kadaifi. Dad loved kadaifi which is a less common Greek pastry which is named primarily after the pastry it’s made with. Kadaifi is a filo dough which is shredded so that it has the appearance of shredded wheat. It’s brushed with butter and filled with nuts and honey like baklava and baked. Once baked it’s soaked with syrup, again, like baklava. At Kokkari their kadaifi started out traditionally, layers of shredded dough with nuts and cinnamon but then it was topped with a layer of custard and a layer of whipped cream with finely chopped pistachio’s decorating the cream. It was unlike any kadaifi I’m used to, however I have seen recipes for kadaifi like this, so perhaps it’s a regional thing, and it was really good. A lovely mixture of crunchy and creamy, almost cheesecake like. Too bad we only do this once a year!
Walnut Honey Cookies
1/2 pound butter, room temperature
2 T thyme or other full flavored honey
1/2 C powdered sugar
2 t vanilla
1 t cinnamon
zest of one orange
1 1/2 C flour
1 1/2 C walnuts, finely chopped
Heat the oven to 375
Place the butter in a large bowl and add the honey, powdered sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, orange zest, and salt. Mix until smooth. Add the flour and mix to combine, add the walnuts and mix well. Scrape dough onto a lightly floured board and shape into a log. Roll the log to about a 2-inch diameter. Using a sharp knife cut the dough into about 1/3 inch thick slices. Place slices on a parchment lined cookie sheet. They will spread a tad, so don’t let them be too close to each other and bake about 15-20 minutes or until lightly gold around the edges. Makes about 20 cookies.