Λουκουμάδες / Greek Honey Puffs

 

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You will find that most λουκουμάδες recipes use yeast and require a rising time. Our family recipe was always made with baking powder instead. Delicious!

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 level tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup milk (You may also use water.)
2 eggs
oil for frying
honey for drizzling
ground cinnamon

Sift the flour with the baking powder and salt into a bowl.

Add sugar, milk, vanilla extract and the eggs,and mix with a wooden spoon until smooth.

Heat 2-3 inches of oil in a saucepan or deep frying pan to just below the smoke point (medium to medium-high on most stoves).

When the oil is hot, drop the batter by teaspoonfuls into the oil and fry until golden on all sides.

Place on serving platter.

As you remove each batch from the oil, drizzle with honey and dust generously with cinnamon. Serve warm.

Γεμιστές Ντομάτες και Πιπεριές / Stuffed Tomatoes and Peppers

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8 large ripe tomatoes
4 large green bell peppers
1/4 cup butter
1 large yellow onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced, or to taste
2 pounds ground beef chuck
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon Cavendars seasoned salt
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 cup water or chicken broth
1 1/2 cups converted rice (such as Uncle Ben’s®)
1/2 cup olive oil
5 large potatoes

Cut off tops of tomatoes. Retain tops.Scoop insides of tomatoes and transfer insides to a large bowl. Be careful not to pierce or gouge through tomato skin.

Cut off tops of green peppers and reserve for later use. Scoop out seeds and membranes.

Arrange tomatoes and bell peppers in a 11×17-inch baking dish.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Heat butter in a large skillet over medium heat; cook and stir onion and garlic in the melted butter until softened, 5 to 10 minutes. Add ground chuck, seasoned salt, oregano, allspice and black pepper to onion mixture; cook until ground chuck is browned and crumbly, 5 to 10 minutes.

Mix in tomato meat, broth, 2 teaspoons of the sugar and the tomato paste into browned chuck; bring to a simmer, about 15 minutes. Add rice and bring to a boil; remove skillet from heat.

Drop a pinch of sugar into the bottom of each tomato and pepper. Spoon beef-rice mixture into tomatoes and add another pinch of sugar to each.

Place tops onto filled tomatoes and peppers and arrange them into the baking dish.

Drizzle olive oil over stuffed tomatoes and bell peppers.

Peel potatoes and cut into wedges (1/6 cut). Place in bowl, drizzle with olive oil and season with Cavendars, oregano, salt and pepper. Place in baking pan around tomatoes and peppers.

Bake in the preheated oven for about 1 hour.

Μουσακά / Mousaka

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3-4 eggplants, about 4 lbs. total
1 lb. potatoes
1 1/2 lbs. ground beef (or lamb)
2 large onions, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup red wine
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1 cup crushed tomatoes
1 can tomato paste
1 tablespoon sugar
Cavendars Greek Seasoning (to taste)
1 teaspoon oregano
3 bay leaves
Salt and pepper (to taste)
1 cup grated Kefalotyri or Parmesan cheese

Béchamel Sauce:
1 cup salted butter (2 sticks)
1 cup flour
4 cups milk, warmed
8 eggs, lightly beaten
Pinch of ground nutmeg (to taste)
Salt and pepper (to taste)

Using a sharp peeler, partially peel the eggplants, leaving strips of peel about 1 inch wide around the eggplant. Slice the eggplant in to 1/2 inch slices. Place the eggplant slices in a colander and salt them liberally. Cover them with an inverted plate that is weighted down by a heavy can or jar. Place the colander in the sink so that excess moisture can be drawn out. They will need to sit for at least 15-20 minutes.

Peel the potatoes and slice into 1/4 inch slices. Saute them in butter until they are partially tender and golden. They should not get too soft, just cooked enough so that they no longer crunch. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Line two baking sheets with aluminum foil and grease lightly.

Rinse the eggplant slices and dry with paper towels. Brush slices on both sides with olive oil and place on baking sheets. Bake at 400 degrees until slightly tender, about 15 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.

When eggplant is finished cooking, lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees.

 

Make the Meat Filling:

In a large sauté pan, saute the onion until translucent. Add the the ground beef (or lamb) and cook until the pink color disappears.

Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Add wine to pan and allow it to simmer and reduce a bit before adding cinnamon, allspice, parsley, tomato paste, crushed tomatoes, oregano, bay leaves, Cavendars and sugar. Allow the sauce to simmer uncovered for approximately 30 minutes so that excess liquid can evaporate. It should be a drier, chunkier, tomato sauce. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Make the Béchamel Sauce:

Melt butter over low heat. Using a whisk, add flour to melted butter whisking continuously to make a smooth paste. Allow the flour to cook for a minute but do not allow it to brown.

Add warmed milk to mixture in a steady stream, whisking continuously.

Simmer over low heat until it thickens a bit but does not boil.

Remove from heat, whisk milk mixture into beaten eggs very slowly. Add pinch of nutmeg. Return to heat and stir until sauce thickens. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Assemble the Moussaka:

Lightly grease a large deep baking pan (lasagna pan). Leaving a 1/4 inch space around the edges of the pan, place a layer of potatoes on the bottom. Spread half of meat sauce on the potatoes and sprinkle with 1/4 of the grated cheese.

Top with a layer of eggplant slices.

Add remaining meat sauce on top of eggplant layer and sprinkle with 1/4 of the grated cheese. Top with another layer of eggplant slices and sprinkle once again with 1/4 of the grated cheese.

Pour the béchamel sauce over the eggplant and be sure to allow sauce to fill the sides and corners of the pan. Smooth the béchamel on top with a spatula and sprinkle with remaining grated cheese. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 45 minutes or until béchamel sauce is a nice golden brown color. Allow to cool for 15 – 20 minutes before slicing and serving.

You can make this dish ahead up until the béchamel sauce and refrigerate. Make the béchamel sauce right before you intend to bake it.

Τυρόπιτα / Tiropita

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6 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups milk
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1 pound feta cheese
3 ounces grated Greek Kefalotiri cheese
4 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 pound phyllo dough, thawed
1 cup melted butter for brushing

Melt 6 tablespoons butter in small saucepan over medium-low heat. Whisk in the flour until smooth and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes.

Gradually pour in the milk, stirring constantly with a whisk or wooden spoon.

Add the salt and nutmeg, stirring occasionally, until mixture is bubbly and thickened, 5 to 10 minutes.

Mash the feta cheese with a fork in a bowl and stir in the grated kefalotiri, beaten eggs, and parsley.

Pour in the hot white sauce slowly while whisking.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Butter a 9×13-inch baking dish.

Line the buttered baking dish with a sheet of phyllo dough and brush it with melted butter; keep the remaining phyllo sheets covered with plastic wrap while you work.

Repeat with half of the phyllo sheets, brushing each sheet with butter, and letting them come up the sides of the baking dish. Pour in the cheese filling.

Lay the remaining pastry sheets on top of the filling, brushing each with butter.

Brush the top of the last sheet with butter and, with a sharp knife, score the top sheets into strips about 3 inches wide from one end of the baking dish to the other.

Bake in the preheated oven until the pastry is golden brown and crisp, about 45 minutes.

Let stand for 5 minutes, then cut into squares and serve hot.

Παστίτσιο / Pastitsio

Pasta:
1 pound dry ziti pasta or elbow macaroni
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 dash ground nutmeg
Salt and pepper to taste
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 stick butter

Meat Sauce:
1 large onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon oregano
1 teaspoon Cavendars Greek Seasoning
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef
1 can tomato paste
1/2 cup dry red wine
1/2 cup vegetable broth
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon sugar
Salt and pepper to taste

Bechamel Sauce:
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3 cups milk
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3 eggs, lightly beaten
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente; drain.

Melt 1/2 stick butter. Add salt to pan and cook until scorched. Add pasta, 1/4 cup of the Parmesan cheese, nutmeg, salt, pepper and toss well; allow to cool. Add eggs and toss again; set aside.

To make meat sauce: Gently fry onion and garlic in olive oil in a skillet until onion is soft. Increase heat and add ground beef, Oregano and Cavendars, stir well. Cook until meat begins to brown. Add tomato paste, wine, broth, parsley, sugar, salt and pepper. Cover and simmer over low heat for 20 minutes.

To make bechamel sauce: Melt butter in saucepan, stir in flour and cook gently for 2 minutes. Pour in milk all at once and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Boil gently for 1 minute. Add nutmeg, salt, pepper and cool slightly before stirring in beaten eggs. Transfer 1/2 cup of this sauce to the meat sauce.
To assemble pastitsio: Grease a 9×13 inch baking dish. Spoon a very thin layer of meat sauce in the bottom. Add half of the prepared pasta and spread evenly over the meat. Top with remaining a meat sauce. Top that with remaining pasta. Pour on cream sauce and spread to completely cover pasta. Sprinkle remaining cheese on top.

Bake in a preheated oven for 50 minutes or until golden brown. Let stand 10 minutes before cutting into squares to serve.

Τζατζίκι / Tzaziki

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Tzaziki sauce is delicious served with roasted or grilled lamb, gyros meat or keftethes.

3 cups Greek yogurt
1/2 cup sour cream
3 tablespoons white or apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 large English cucumber, diced (the long, skinny ones)
1 tablespoon fresh dill (or both, depending on preference) or 1 tablespoon of fresh mint, chopped (or both, depending on preference)
salt & freshly ground black pepper

Remove seeds from cucumber and grate coarsely. Crush garlic with mortar and pestle, adding sugar, salt and pepper. Add vinegar to garlic and mix this with yogurt, sour cream and cucumber.

Add chopped dill and/or mint and olive oil. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper.

Refrigerate several hours before serving. Yield: 4 cups

Μπακλαβά / Baklava

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I’m told that my baklava recipe is the best ever. Give it a try. You won’t be disappointed in this delectable pastry.

1-16 ounce package of frozen phyllo dough
1 1/2 pounds pecans
1/2 pound almonds
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 pounds melted butter

Syrup Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups water
1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/2 cup honey
1 cinnamon stick
10 whole cloves

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter the bottoms and sides of a 9×13 inch pan.

Finely chop nuts in a food processor with 1/2 cup sugar and cinnamon. Set aside.

Let phyllo dough come to room temperature in its plastic bag. Carefully unroll phyllo dough. Cut whole stack in half to fit pan. Cover phyllo with a slightly dampened cloth to keep from drying out as you work. Place two sheets of dough in pan. Brush thoroughly with melted butter. Repeat until you have 10 sheets layered. Sprinkle nut mixture on top. Top with two sheets of dough, butter, nuts, layering as you go. The top layer should be about 8 – 10 sheets deep and brushed with butter.

Using a sharp knife cut into diamond or square shapes all the way to the bottom of the pan. You may cut into 4 long rows and then make the diagonal cuts. Bake for about 50 minutes until baklava is golden and crisp.

Make honey syrup while baklava is baking. Boil sugar and water with a stick of cinnamon, ten whole cloves, lemon juice and lemon zest until sugar is melted. Add honey. Simmer for about 20 minutes.

Remove baklava from oven and immediately pour syrup over it, distributing evenly over the pan. Let cool.

My Daddy – Babaki I Called Him: A Chef Extraordinaire

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The Parthenon in Athens, Greece, My Father’s Home

He was his own quirky person, my dad, Costas. Most American friends called him Gus. For a while, he ran a restaurant in Reform, Alabama, a small West Alabama town that had never even seen a Greek person before. But his gregarious personality caused him to make friends easily.

He was a part of the community in unusual ways, like singing in the choir at the Methodist Church on the hill. Of course, he was Greel Orthodox to the bone, but he loved singing. So the loudest voice in that choir belted out “Lead Me to the Rock that Is Higher than I” in perfect broken English! If he embarrassed the choir, they graciously never let on.

One late night, he closed the restaurant by cooking one last dish while singing at the top of his lungs. He packed up a huge pan of spaghetti and meats aisle and brought it to my fiancé’ house. “Wake up, everyone!” he said. “We go eat!”

It was nearly midnight, five full hours after my future in-laws went to bed. But the kindly dragged themselves out of a deep sleep and enjoyed Greel Spaghetti and Meat Sauce. To say I was embarrassed would be an understatement. But the spaghetti was delicious. Here’s the recipe.

Μακαρονάδα με Κιμά / Spaghetti with Meat Sauce

  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • 2 large yellow onions
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • olive oil for sautéing
  • 1 large can whole tomatoes (crushed with your hands)
  • 1 can tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 tablespoons Cavendars Greek Season
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons oregano
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • 1/2 stick butter
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Saute chopped onion and diced garlic inpanwith a little olive oil until onion begins to become transparent.while cooking, add oregano, salt, pepper and sugar. Add ground beef and cook until brown. Skim off extra grease if you like. Add crushed tomatoes, tomato paste and other seasonings. Cook until sauce is smooth and full-bodied (about an hour).

Cook spaghetti to the aldente stage. Drain and rinse. Melt butter in spaghetti pan with a little salt. Let the butter burn. Then toss in spaghetti and stir while adding salt to taste and Parmesan cheese. Ladle sauce onto seasoned noodles, serve and enjoy.

 

 

 

 

 

My Mother’s Island

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The island of my mother’s birth: Aperi, Karpathos, Greece

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My mother was born in Karpathos, the second largest of the Greek Dodecanese islands, in the southeastern Aegean. Κάρπαθος is a beautiful part of Greece. My mother, Fotene, came to America when she was two years old. A part of my heritage is cooking the many Greek dishes that my grandmother used to cook.

One of my favorites is a rich, tomato based beef stew called Stifato.

Στιφάτο /Stifato

Ingredients:
1 pound of lean beef ,cubed
10 boiling onions
1 large yellow onion
1 large can diced tomatoes
4 garlic cloves
10 whole cloves
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup Red Wine
2 tbsp of red wine vinegar
1 can tomato paste
1 cinnamon stick
2 tbsp sugar
1/2 – 1 tsp of ground nutmeg
4 bay leaves
Salt and black pepper to taste

Directions:

Sear the meat in the olive oil

Add yellow onion (chopped) and garlic and sauté until onion is transparent.(about 5 minutes).
Add the red wine and 2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar, cover and leave for 5 minutes.

Add cinnamon, canned tomatoes, cloves, nutmeg, bay leaves, sugar, tomato paste and salt and pepper to taste. Keep stirring to let all your ingredients mix.

Add about 1/2 cup of water, being careful not to drown the sauce.

Cook for at least one hour on low heat, keeping checking you dont want it to dry out and add water if needed you are aiming for a thick rich sauce texture.

While cooking place your boiling onions into hot water to soften the skin and peel, then saute these in a little olive oil. Be careful not to burn them. Just soften them and add a little colour.

Add these to Stifato after one hour of cooking. Cook for an additional hour until the meat is tender.

Serve over rice.

 

 

A Big Fat Greek Birthday Party

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What a wonderful birthday celebration for a wonderful woman, my cousin, Tasia! We gathered around a table of very simple Greek food. We had keftethes, Greek meatballs, and a recipe we call spaghetti and onions.

Κεφτέδες / Keftethes

2 pounds ground beef
2 large sweet, yellow onions
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon allspice
2 eggs
3 slices bread
1 tablespoon oregano
1 tablespoon Cavenders Greek Seasoning
Salt & pepper to taste
Vegetable or Canola Oil for cooking
Self-rising flour for dredging meatballs

Sauté onions in butter until transparent. Season with sugar and a little bit of Cavenders and oregano.

Wet bread with a little milk and mashup the bread.

Cool onions and mix with ground beef, bread, eggs and rest of seasonings.

Roll into balls and dredge in flour.

Cook in oil at medium heat. When brown on one side, turn over the meatballs.

Drain on paper towel.

Serve warm or cold with a Greek Salad, of course, or a Greek Village Salad.

Makes 30 meatballs. 

(You may also bake these meatballs on a rack placed inside a pan. Bake at 400° For 15 to 20 minutes.)

Our recipe for spaghetti and onions is one of my favorite family recipes. It’s affectionately called poor people’s spaghetti and it’s way more delicious than it ought to be!

Μακαρονάδα / Spaghetti and Onions

Saute 3 large yellow onions in a stick of butter. Season while cooking with salt, pepper and a teaspoon of sugar. Sauté until onions are transparent with a bit of brown on the edges.

Cook two pounds of spaghetti in lightly salted water until tender (al dente). Rinse and drain noodles. Melt one stick of butter in spaghetti pan with a little salt. Cook until the butter burns. Return noodles to this pan and toss with fresh Parmesan cheese.