Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Stuffed Tomatoes--Yemista

You say tomatoes I say tomaaatoes; you say slice them, I say dice them.  Yannis and I actually argue alot about food, He comes from quite a great bunch of traditional cooks and has very set ways of doing things, whereas I dream up alot of our meals.  Of all the ways one can prepare tomatoes, stuffing them the traditional Greek way is something we both agree on!  Of course, we argued about how much garlic goes in this recipe; I would've added much more--like 4 or 5 cloves.  Yannis would stuff some of the mixture into green peppers as well. He would also add raisins to the recipe if it was without meat; something I wouldn't even dream of!  Thank God we both agree to compromise and have come up with a really tasty dinner!  So, no matter how you say tomato, we say "stuff  it!!"
You say "Storm Trooper", I say "Storm Super"!!

Stuffed Tomatoes

12 large tomatoes
1 lb. ground beef
2 Tbsp. bread crumbs
2 garlic cloves
3 onions, grated
1 cup grated zucchini, umpeeled
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1/2 cup fresh dill
salt and pepper
olive oil
1 cup rice
1/2 cup pine nuts
1 cup white wine

Cut tops off tomatoes and reserve. Scoop out pulp and reserve. Place tomato shells in a baking dish; sprinkle lightly with sugar and then bread crumbs.  In a skillet, lightly saute onions, garlic and beef; add grated zucchini, rice, pine nuts, 1 cup of the tomatoe pulp and 1/2 cup white wine, salt and pepper and simmer for 30 minutes.  Spoon the mixture into tomato shells and cap tomatoes with their tops.  Combine remaining tomato pulp with one cup water, 6 Tbsp olive oil and 1/2 cup white wine--pour mixture over tomatoes.  You can nessle 3-4 cleaned and quartered potatoes between the tomatoes if you like.  Sprinkle the whole pan with salt and pepper and bake at 350F/180C for 45 minutes, basting occasionally. Spoon sauce over tomatoes and serve with feta, kaseri or saganaki cheese, olives, cucumbers, bread and a dry white's about as good as it gets!!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Caramel Apple Cake

Yannis and I often have discussions about food.  I was asking him what was his favorite apple dessert and he said he really preferred to eat them as they are;fresh,cold, firm and a bit tart.  I asked him if he had ever had caramel apples, and he said he never had.  Of course!  The Greeks don't celebrate Halloween, so why would they make caramel apples?  Even when he went to America, he enjoyed the apple pie, apple sauce and apple crisp, but never my favorite, caramel apples. So today I'm making a caramel apple cake. This cake  has the same great combination of flavors as caramel apples, plus it makes the whole house smell yummy and  should induce Yannis to confess "actually, you're the  apple of  my eye!!"
careful who you buy your apples from

Caramel Apple Cake

1 cup oil
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
3 eggs
1 T. Vanilla
3 cups flour
1 teas. baking soda
1 teas. nutmeg
1 teas. cloves
1 teas. cinnamon
1/4 teas. salt
3 apples, diced
1/2 cup pecans

Beat oil and sugar well; add eggs and continue beating  till frothy, add flour (mixed with other dry ingredients); stir in vanilla, diced apples and pecans; pour into greased bundt pan and bake at 350F/180C for 1 hour and 10 minutes.  When cool: 

glaze with:

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 Tables. milk
1 teas. vanilla
dash of salt

bring above ingredients to a boil, simmer for one minute; let stand for 1/2 hour before spreading (drizzling) over the apple cake.  French vanilla ice cream is the ultimate topping!

Friday, January 25, 2013

Giouvetsi Ki'alios

cowboys, ninjas and children are also big on eating out on the steps.
Whenever Yannis makes this dish I think of my early days of cooking adventures. Yannis learned alot of his cooking skills hanging out in his Yiayia's kitchen while she would explain the smallest details of her sauces' secrets.  I actually got my  recipes, if you could call them recipes, from my imagination. From the time I was about ten, my Mom would leave me every Tuesday when she went golfing to care and cook for my baby brother.  Steve would always beg for "glop"--a combination of macaroni, summer sausage, tomato soup, chili powder and  any spice that caught my fancy that day. It always turned out amazing and we would sit on the front steps and devour large quantities of the concoction.  When Yannis makes giouvetsi it always seems to take so long before it's ready; unlike glop that I could turn out in less than twenty minutes!  It's always worth the wait--and like glop, we devour large quantities of it!  It would probably taste even better if we ate on the steps!

3 lbs. beef (or lamb),  boneless and cubed
1/2 cup butter
salt and pepper
1 onion, sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
5 ripe tomatoes, grated
1/2 cup tomato paste diluted in 1/4 cup water
2 cups orzo (kritharaki)
4 Tables. olive oil
1/2 cup red wine
1 1/2 cup water, more may be needed
careful you don't leave your glop to fester...

Rub clean and dried meat with salt and pepper and place it in heavy oven-proof pan; add the garlic and onion and 1/4 cup butter.  Brown the meat in a pre-heated 450F/220C oven, stirring so it's brown on all sides.When the meat is brown, add wine and cook another 20 minutes.  Reduce temperature to 350F/180C, add the water,1/4 cup butter, tomatoes and tomato paste and bake another 45 minutes. Meanwhile parboil the orzo for 5 minutes in salted water; drain and add to sauce in roasting pan.  Stir well and bake another 20 min.; adding more water as needed.  Serve with grated cheese and a green vegetable or a green salad dressed in vinegar and oil and a little lemon.  A robust red wine, thick-crusted bread and Greek olives makes this dish almost as good as glop!!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Zucchini Pie & Zucchini Bars

It's hard to be this patient for zucchini pie, but it can be done
When I have lots of zucchini in the house I feel like I'm prepared for whatever may come my way! I love the fact that fresh zucchini--with their flowers, are available all year round at the Greek fruit markets. Zucchini is a great  source of potassium and B vitamins.  The  zucchini bulb is actually a swollen ovary of the blossom and it's sweet light flavor lends itself to a wide range of uses. We like to add thin slices of zucchini to frying fresh potatoes, cut them up and serve them cold with tzaziki dip, grate them and add them to vegetable pies, slice them into soups and steam them for a side dish.  As we eat our main meal in the afternoon,we'll have a light snack in the evening.  Yannis usually wants something a bit substantial; so I'll make him a very quick and easy zucchini pie--no crust and no phyllo! As for me, I'll enjoy my tea with zucchini too--the Minnesotan way...bars!


8-10 medium zucchini, peeled and shredded (let stand for 1/2 hour, drain)
2 medium onions
1 leek
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup parsley
1/2 cup mint
3/4 cup feta, crumbled
3 eggs
1/2 cup bread crumgs
salt and pepper
Saute the onions and leeks in olive oil; Mix all of the ingredients together, spread into a greased 9x12 pan and bake at 350F./180C for 30-40 minutes or until golden brown. Cut into squares when it has cooled a bit.

Zucchini Bars

4 eggs
2 cups sugar-(i use 1 1/2 cup brown sugar)
1 1/4 cup oil
2 cups flour
1/2 tes. salt
2 teas. soda
2 teas. cinnamon
2 cups grated zucchini
3/4 cup walnuts

Beat eggs and slowly add the sugar; beat very well; add the oil and beat again.  Add the rest of the ingredients, stirring in the zucchini and nuts after the flour mixture . Spread in a 9x13 jelly roll pan and bake at 350F./180C. for 30 minutes; when cool frost with butter cream or cream cheese frosting-you can sprinkle some more walnuts on top.  If you're in a hurry, or just want to save calories, dust the bars with powdered sugar. These bars keep very well--if you can keep them out of sight!!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Roló--Meat Roll

This is one of those comforting, homey, real-food recipes that we used to make in Minnesota by throwing any and all the leftovers into a couple of pounds of hamburger.  We called it meatloaf and although the local diners would probably serve it with mashed potatoes, my Mom always served it with scalloped potatoes. Yannis makes his grandmothers recipe for roló, which has lovely little potatoes and it's own sauce--so you don't even need to use catsup !  So, that which we call a roló by any other name would taste as good as Mom's meatloaf!!  It's probably better as it has a real recipe and always turns out great!
What?? Dis Rollo not have caramel OR choklit!! 

Roló--Meat Roll    
3 lbs. ground beef
1/2 teas. cumin
1/2 teas. thyme
1/2 teas. oregano
1 cup finely chopped celery
2 raw eggs
1 garlic clove, minced
splash of vinegar
2 onions, finely minced
1 1/2 cups bread crumb
2 Tables. chopped parsley
salt and pepper
1/4 cup white wine
pinch of sugar
1 8 oz. can tomato sauce
20 baby potatoes
6 hard boiled eggs, cleaned

Combine all ingredients except the last 4 and mix well.  Roll out mixture on  a 12x18 inch pan, dusted with flour.  Place hard boiled eggs down the center of the flattened meat mixture and carefully roll the meat around the eggs, jelly roll fashion. Lining the pan with tin foil makes this very easy. Place in a baking pan and brown for 20 minutes at 450F/220C.  Reduce oven to 350 F./180C, pour tomato sauce and sugar over meat roll; bake another 45 minutes to 1 hour. Peel and parboil the potatoes; drain them and add them to the pan with the meatroll and sauce, for the last 20 minutes of the baking time.  Place the meat roll on a large platter, surround with potatoes and pour the sauce over it all.  Serve with a green vegetable--string beans would be my choice, red wine, and of course lots of bread with a nice thick crust to dip up all the sauce!  If you want to get really fancy you can wrap each egg with the meat mixture to make individual servings...nice!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Blitz Torte

I'm going to attack this grey wintery day with my most successful weapon....baking a blitz torte! When the kids were little my girlfriends would accuse me of baking for therapy; the more brownies, cookies and cakes were lined up on the kitchen counter, the rougher the day!  Now I make a beautiful, show stopping blitz torte as the perfect dessert for Yannis and I.  Even though this cake is not teeth-curling sweet, Yannis loves the almonds, cinnamon and the beloved Greek custard.  I love the many textures, the comfort of custard and seeing the smile on Yannis face...always blitzes away the blues!!
the mating rituals of a diabetic

Blitz Torte
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup sugar
dash of salt
4 egg yolks, lightly beaten
1 teas. vanilla
3 Tables, milk
1 cup flour
1 teas. baking powder
4 egg whites
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup blanched almonds
1 Tables. sugar
1/2 teaas. cinnamon

Cream shortening; beat in sugar, salt, egg yolks, vanilla, milk and flour mixed with baking powder.  Spread batter in 2 round greased cake pans.  Beat egg whites until very light, add 3/4 cup sugar gradually, spread on the unbaked batter in both pans.  Sprinkle with almonds and the sugar and cinnamon mixed together.  Bake in a moderate oven, 350F/180C. about 30 minutes.  Let cool and put together with cream filling (the almonds go on top!)  Makes 1 (9 inch) 2 layer cake.

Cream filling

1/3 cup sugar
3 Tables. corn starch
 dash of salt
2 egg yolks
2 Tables butter
2 cups milk, scalded
1 teas. vanilla

Combine sugar, cornstarch, salt and egg yolks;beat  thoroughly. Add butter and enough milk to make a smooth paste.  Add paste to remaining hot milk and cook over medium heat until thick, stirring constantly.  Cool and add vanilla.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Lentil and Pepper Soup

"you know, I was pretty sad during the funeral, but I feel pretty awesome now"
It's soup season.  I'm going to make my version of lentil or fakes (fah-kes) soup today.  Lentil soup is healthy, hearty and even makes you happy!  Just for a little background on these small legumes, you'll be happy to hear they were served up in Bible times and cultivated in Greece as early as 6,000 B.C.  Wealthy Greeks viewed lentils as poor mans food untill Hippocrates, the father of medicine,  recomended lentils for their health benefits.  He prescribed lentils to his patients with liver ailments.  Now we  know that lentils improves liver function beause of the high amounts of choline in them.  Choline rids the liver of fats so toxins can be easily filtered from the blood stream.  As if this isn't reason enough to get cooking this soup, Classical authors write about serving lentils at funerals-  "On eating lentils a man becomes happy and amused."  Now I'm not sure whether this can be scientifically supported, but the great flavor and super nutrional benefits sure puts a smile on our faces!!

Lentil and Pepper Soup
nom nom nom 
3 cups lentils, washed
3/4 cup olive oil
1/2  each- green, yellow and red pepper, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, chopped
2 bay leaves
1 carrot, thinly sliced
1/4 cup bulgar or brown rice
2 beef boullion cubes
2 Tables. tomatoe paste
1 grated tomatoe
salt and pepper
5-6 cups water
1 Tables. balsamic vinegar

Soak the lentils in water overnight; drain the lentils very well. In a heavy , large casserole, saute  in the olive oil the onion, peppers, garlic and lentils for 5 minutes;stirring constantly.(The secret to this soups flavor is the sauteeing of the lentils in oil before adding the water.)  Add the water, tomato, tomato paste, bay leaves, bulgar or rice, bouillon cubes, carrot (and celery, if you like), bring to a boil and reduce heat and simmer for 1 hour.  Add
1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar and simmer for 15 more minutes.  Serve with additional vinegar as a condiment, feta, olives and plenty of bread to dip into the soup!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Sauerkraut and Potato Dumplings

It's a cool day in January and that calls for some warm, filling food. The perfect answer is sauerkraut and dumplings, of course! It was one of my favorite childhood foods and evokes warm memories of contests around the table to see which of us kids could eat the most "dumps". It was also a January evening when I invited Yannis for his first home cooked meal  at my house.  I had made the standard huge recipe of sauerkraut and dumplings with sausages.  Back then my repertoire of recipes included spaghetti, chilli, popcorn and sauerkraut and dumplings. I thought this was a pretty fancy  dish and proudly served a huge portion to Yannis who didn't have a clue what sauerkraut was, much less the heavy potato dumplings floating on it.  I still don't know if he was being polite or was actually very hungry, but he ate it all up.  I had made a fresh fruit drink in the blender for dessert...he drank the whole thing before waiting for it to be poured over ice cream.  He'll never forget how incredibly thirsty all that salty food had made him--or how full he was.  I guess the combination kept him coming back--although he never requests sauerkraut and dumplings, we still enjoy the warm, filling memories and flavors on a cool January evening.

Bananas optional
Sauerkraut and Potato Dumplings
32 oz. jar of saurkraut
1 teas. brown sugar
salt and pepper
1 teas. caraway seed (optional)
sausages or pork roast or pork chops (garlic and onions optional)
3 large potatoes or 4 medium potatoes
2 eggs
3-5 cups of flour
1 teas. salt

Put the saurkraut in a large casserole, add the sugar and salt and pepper and enough water to cover the sauerkraut, about 2-3 cups, and bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer at least 1/2 hour.  I like to cook sauerkraut for several hours, turning it off and on several times to mellow the flavor.  Brown the meat (and onions and garlic if you like) and add to the sauerkraut, and continue cooking till one hour before serving time.  In a medium mixing bowl beat the eggs and grate the potatoes into the eggs.  Add enough flour to hold the dumplings together without being too stiff-and not too runny.  Add the salt . Bring the sauerkraut and meat to a boil and drop the dumplings into the sauerkraut usung a large tablespoon. Turn the heat down and cover.  Let them simmer for at least 20 minutes or until the aroma is overwhelming and you just can't wait to get at them!!  Best served with pickles, beer and lots and lots of water!

Friday, January 11, 2013

Stuffed Chicken Rolls

We've downsized just about everything in our lives these past few years.  Our home is smaller, we have small mopeds, live on a small island and even have small recipes.  When we lived in the big city we would buy big traditional chicken rolls from the big butchers and eat it all up with our big family.  Back then the chicken was usually filled with bacon, cheese and green peppers.  Yannis recipe captures the flavor of the past and combines it with our love for vegetables.  Try adding a little spinach and changing the parmesan for feta. Yannis Chicken rolls may look like Chicken Little, but  don't let that fool you; they're really big in flavor!

Chicken Rolls
4 slices of chicken breast
4 thin slices of ham
1/2 cup white wine
1 cup fresh mushsrooms
1 clove garlic
1 green pepper
5 Tables. butter
salt, pepper 
sweet paprika
1 beef bouillon 
(diluted in 1/2 cup hot water)

you could get pre-beaten chicken if you want

Beat the chicken breasts until they are quite thin.
Place a slice of ham on each breast. In a skillet, sautee the chopped mushrooms, chopped green pepper and garlic for about 3 minutes in 2 Tables. of butter.  Mix the cheese into the vegetables and put 1/4 of it on each chicken breast.  Roll up the breasts, folding in the ends and securing them with toothpicks.Season the rolls with salt, pepper and paprika; sautee the rolls in 3 Tables. of butter, turning them frequently to brown on all sides; pour the wine over them and simmer till half of the wine has evaporated; add the beef boullion, cover and simmer for 15 minutes.  Remove the toothpicks before serving over a bed of rice.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Galatoboureko--Custard Pie

Today is Yannis' name day; along with half of the Greeks around the world.  Traditionally, families name their first boy after the grandfather and the first girl after the grandmother. The Greeks celebrate on the saint's feast day that they are named after, and birthdays are generally not a big deal. So the Yannis (Johns) are preparing banquets for their friends and families today.  People will stop by to visit the Yannis , bringing sweets, flowers and bottles of alcohol.  My Yannis will be making souzoukakia and I am preparing his favorite  (no really, this IS his favorite!) sweet...galatoboureko. This is probably my favorite Greek sweet too.  I hope Yannis makes it for me for my name day; when the other half of the Greek population celebrates!!

6 cups whole milk
1 1/2 cup sugar
 1/2 cup butter
 1 cup farina
6 eggs
2 teas. orange or lemon zest
dash of salt
1 teas. vanilla
1 pound filo pastry leaves
 melted sweet butter(about 3/4 cup)

In a large saucepan heat the milk over low fire until warm. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl beat the eggs till frothy, adding the sugar and then the farina slowly into the eggs.  Stir the egg mixture into the warm milk, add butter and stir until completely blended.  Remove from heat and add the orange or lemon rind, vanilla and salt. Allow custard to cool.   Prepare the syrup...

Bring to a boil:
1 cup water
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick
2 teas. orange peel
Simmer for about 15 minutes, add:
1 teas. vanilla
2 jiggers peach or orange liqueur (optional)

Grease a 9x13c2 inch baking pan, and place about 10 sheets of the filo leaves in the bottom of the pan, brushing each sheet with melted butter.  Pour the cooled custard mixture into the pan and spread evenly. Cover the custard with remaining filo sheets, again brushing each sheet with melted butter.  With a sharp knife or razor blade, cut the top layer of pastry into 3 inch squares.  Bake at 350 F./180C. for one hour, remove froom oven and pour the cooled syrup over the pan, saturating the filo and custard thoroughly.  Allow to cool before serving.  Hronia Polla!!!

Friday, January 4, 2013

Fasolakia--Greek String Beans

When Yannis and I were first married we lived in the Valley of the Jolly Green Giant.  Minnesota has some of the richest farm land and grows some of the best vegetables in the world.  When I was growing up we had a garden that our family enjoyed eating from most of the summer, but when winter came we depended on the Jolly Green Giant for our canned string beans.  We would usually eat our beans with melted butter and of course, salt and pepper. If we were going to get really fancy, we would throw a can of cream of mushroom soup over them. Because there is nothing better than the flavor of fresh string beans straight from the garden, and no amount of fiddling with a can of string beans really does the trick, I am so happy that we can get fresh string beans year around in Greece.  Cooking them up with tomatoes, parsley and onion makes them one of the tastiest Greek
dishes.So good to be living on the mountain of the Jolly Greek Giant!

Fasolakia--Greek String Beans
3/4 cup olive oil
2 medium onions
1 garlic clove (up to 4, according to preference), chopped
4 large tomatoes
1 1/2 teas. sugar
2 llbs. fresh string beans, cleaned and trimmed
1/2 cup chopped parsley

Heat oil in cooking pot, saute the onions and garlic for a couple of minutes, grate the tomatoes into the casserole. Add the sugar, string beans, parsley and salt and pepper to taste.Add enough water to cover the string beans-maybe a half of a cup.  Cover and let  it simmer for 45 minutes; uncover and cook 10 more minutes to thicken the sauce.  Traditionally this dish is served at room temperature  as a main dish.  I have also added a diced potatoe and thinly sliced carrots to this recipe. This is also the perfect sauce for okra. Serve it up in bowls with feta , crusty bread and white wine.  Kali Oreksi!!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Keftedes--Greek Meatballs

     Today Yannis is making Greek Meatballs, or keftedes.  This is one of our staple recipes and is on the menu almost once a week..unlike Swedish Meatballs that are produced only a couple of times a year! I really love Yannis meatballs and the way my whole house is filled with  their aroma as they simmer.  All the flavors of Greece are   wrapped up in  these little meat balls. So get out the fresh mint, oregano, garlic, onion and lemon.....and don't forget to add the sunshine-our favorite Greek ingredient!!!
Fighting over the last 'ball is a time-honored tradition

Greek Meat Balls
1 lb. ground beef
1 lb. ground pork
2 eggs
1 large onion, grated
1 teas. oregano
1 Tables. crushed mint
2 Tables. minced parsley
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tables. olive oil
1 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup white wine
salt and pepper

    Place the meat in a mixing bowl, break in the eggs, combine all other ingredients, except the flour, and knead until well mixed.  On a floured plate, shape into fritters, and dust lightly with flour.  Fry them over medium heat in cooking oil until browned on both sides...either medium or well done, according to your taste,  Remove to platter  and serve while hot.  Most Greeks would squeeze a lemon over their meat balls, and enjoy them as a starter with ouzo, or as a main course with rice, pasta or fresh fried potatoes, and a nice white wine.