Monday, April 26, 2010

It’s Greek To Me

Greek cookies 2

Regular readers of this blog know I am part of a gathering of women who meet each week to chit-chat in Italian (Sometimes I think it’s just a ruse to indulge in lots of good food). Most of the women are native born speakers. Several of them come from other countries but also happen to be fluent in Italian. One of the newest members is Aspasia - a lovely and lively young woman from Greece (and Canada) who is married to an Italian. The melt-in-your-mouth cookies above – kourabiedes – were just one of the offerings Asapasia made for us last week.

She hosted the group at her house with Claudine, who is from Belgium and also married to an Italian. Claudine contributed a wonderful tarte tatin, which I unfortunately failed to photograph. In addition, she made a delicious goat cheese and pesto tart topped with slices of red onion, pictured below:

IMG_0849

Among the various Greek dishes Aspasia made was this dish of spanakopita, rolled up rather than folded into the traditional triangles:

spanak.

She also made tsoureki, a treat that’s typically made at Easter. Usually the egg or eggs that are nestled in the dough are colored red to signify the blood of Christ but you can leave them uncolored, as Aspasia did. The recipe calls for machlepi, made from ground cherry pits.IMG_0857A plateful of melomakarona also tempted us. These sweet treats  are flavored with cloves and sprinkled with syrup and nuts.

Greek cookies 3

Are you hungry yet? Or ready for a Greek feast? This was only a portion of last week’s bounty. I haven’t even shown you the Greek dips, the zucchini pancakes and lots of other goodies we ate. Oh yes, and ouzo too. There were at least twenty women present, but here are a few (including Aspasia and Claudine, second and third from left) raising their glasses in a toast. To your health! Stin iyia mas!

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Can’t send you the ouzo or the food through the computer, but there’s something for you too – not one, but five recipes - for all the items pictured in the photos.

Aspasia told me that “These are recipes my mother made from memory  ... or she'd call a friend on the phone to remind her of the quantities.  I sat beside her and wrote them out by hand when I was in my teens and photocopied them.”

Now as a tribute to her mother and her Greek heritage, they are on the internet for so many to share.

One last thing – now you can connect with Ciao Chow Linda on Facebook. Stop by and check it out.

Kourabiedes (Greek Almond Shortbread Cookies)

Printer friendly recipe here

1 lb. butter (salted or unsalted)

2 egg yolks

¼ cup white sugar

2 tsp. baking powder

1 cup crushed or sliced almonds*

¼ cup warm water

2 tsp. vanilla or almond extract, ouzo or amaretto

4-6 cups flour

Cream butter with fork or hand.  Add two egg yolks and mix well with a mixer.  Add sugar, baking powder and mix well.  Add vanilla extract (or other), water and almonds.  Add flour and work with hand into a paste stiff enough to roll out.

Roll out ¼ inch thick on floured board and cut into moon-shaped crescents with the rim of a thin glass (or use cookie cutter shapes).  Place on ungreased cookie sheet and bake at 350-400 º F for approximately 20 minutes (until browned on underside).

Let cool and dust with icing sugar (use flour sifter or sieve).

These cookies are traditionally made at Orthodox Easter time.

* Remove skins from almonds before slicing by dipping them in boiling water and then popping the skins off.  Once sliced, you may brown the almonds in a pan with butter before adding them to dough.

 

Goat Cheese –Basil Tart

Printer friendly recipe here

2 medium size red onions, unpeeled, each cut into 12 wedges

3 T. olive oil

1 sheet frozen puff pastry (half of a 17 1/4 ounce package) thawed

1 large egg, beaten to blend

8 ounces soft goat cheese (such as Montrachet)

1/4 cup pesto (purchased or homemade)

1/4 c. whipping cream

3 T. chopped fresh basil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Oil heavy large baking sheet. Toss onion wedges with oil in medium bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Arrange onions in single layer on baking sheet. Bake until bottoms of onions are golden and onions are very tender, about 25 minutes. Transfer sheet to rack; cool (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and let stand at room temperature.)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Roll out pastry on lightly floured surface to 14 x 11 inch rectangle. Trim edges to even. Cut 1/2 inch strip from each side of pastry, forming 13 x 11 inch rectangle; reserve strips. Transfer pastry rectangle to another heavy large baking. Brush edges with some of the beaten egg; reserve remaining egg. Place strips on edges of tart, creating border. Trim strips; press gently to adhere. Pierce bottom of pastry several times with fork. Bake until edges puff and pastry is golden brown, about 15 minutes. Transfer baking sheet to rack. Using metal spatula, loosen pastry from baking sheet. Cool completely on sheet. Reduce oven temp. to 350 degrees.

Stir cheese, pesto and 2 T. basil in medium bowl until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Mix in remaining beaten egg. Spread cheese mixture evenly over bottom of crust. Remove peel and stem end from roasted onions. Fan wedges, golden brown side up, over cheese mixture.

Bake tart until crust is brown and cheese sets, about 20 minutes. Transfer baking sheet to rack and cool tart to room temperature.

Sprinkle tart with remaining 1 T. basil. Cut into squares.

 

SPANAKOPITA (Greek Spinach and Cheese Pies)

printer friendly recipe here

Filling

1 cello package of fresh spinach (chopped)

3 green onions (chopped)

1 chunk of feta cheese (3x3 inches)

4 tbsp olive oil

2 eggs (beaten)

2 tbsp flour

salt and pepper

Steam spinach.  In a separate pot, heat oil and add onion and spinach.  Sauté for a few minutes.  Remove from heat.  Add crumbled feta cheese, eggs and flour.  Mix all together and salt and pepper to taste.

Phyllo Preparation

Lay out a package of fresh or frozen phyllo pastry (usually 8-10 sheets).  Cut the rectangle into 4 equal strips lengthwise.  Brush the top layer with a mixture of melted butter and olive oil.

Starting at one end, place a teaspoonful of filling and fold one sheet (strip) upwards making a triangular shape.  Continue to repeat this action with the remaining 3 strips.  Once one sheet is completed, butter the next sheet and continue until the sheets are used up.

Baking

Grease a baking sheet with some oil or Crisco.  Place the triangles on the sheet and brush the tops with either milk or butter and oil mixture (to brown).

Bake at 400 º  F for 10-15 min.

 

Melomakarona

Greek Honey-Walnut Cookies

printer friendly recipe here

Dough

½  pound, (250 gr.) unsalted butter or shortening

2  cups of vegetable oil

½ cup white sugar  (if you like them sweet, add up to 1 cup sugar)

½ cup milk

½ cup orange juice

1 shot glass of liqueur  (cognac, amaretto)

2 tbsp. vanilla extract 

4 tsp. baking powder

1  tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. ground clove

grated rind of one orange

white flour (enough to make dough)

Cream butter and sugar together.  Mix in oil by hand or whisk.  Add dry ingredients except soda and flour to the oil mixture.  Add milk.  Add soda to the orange juice (let it foam) and then mix it with the rest of the mixture.  Add enough flour to make a manageable cookie dough (not too stiff).  Form into small ovals by rolling in the palms of your hands and place on ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake at 400° F (200° C ) until browned (approximately 20 min.).

Let cookies cool.  Prepare the honey syrup.  Place 3-4 cookies at a time in the pot and let them soak for a few seconds.  Remove them with a slotted spoon to drain excess syrup and place them on sheet. Immediately sprinkle them with the walnut topping.  Let cool again an EAT THEM!!

Syrup

2 ½ cups water

3  cups white sugar

½ lemon (juice of)

1  tbsp. honey 

Topping

1 ½  cups finely chopped walnuts

1  tsp. white sugar

1  tsp. cinnamon

1  tsp. ground clove

Mix all ingredients in small pot and bring to boil.  Keep hot during whole cookie- dipping procedure.

 

Greek Egg Loaf (Tsoureki)

printer friendly recipe here

All the measurements here are correct. It makes 7 loaves! Aspasia said, “As a Greek woman..if you are going to put aside a day to make bread...MAKE IT LARGE!!!:

12  eggs

1 lb  butter, unsalted

1  cup vegetable oil

2  cups milk

2  cups hot water

2  cups sugar

2  tbsp ouzo

1  envelope ground machlepi

3  envelopes yeast (for pizza dough)

3-4  kilos white flour

sesame seeds/shaved almonds

In bowl #1 (small), place yeast with 1 cup hot water and 2 tbsp. of sugar.  Let rise for 20 minutes.

In bowl #2 (small), mix melted butter and 1 cup hot water and oil.

In bowl#3 (large), mix sugar, milk, eggs (beaten), ouzo and machlepi.

Add bowls #1 & #2 into bowl #3 and mix well.  Slowly add flour and mix with hands until dough is formed.  Knead until consistent.

Cover the bowl with a sheet of plastic and cover it with blankets to keep it warm.  Let rise for 2.5 hours.

Separate the dough into small balls and roll out into long cylinders.  Braid 3 of these into a loaf and place onto greased baking pan.  Cover and let the loaves rise in the pans for 1 hour.

With a pastry brush, brush the tops of the loaves with a mixture of egg, milk and sugar.  You can add sesame seeds or shaved almonds on top.  You may also add a red egg for decoration.

Bake in hot oven at  200 ° C for 10 minutes (to brown tops) and then 150 °C for 45 minutes.  If they become too browned, place some foil over the loaves.

When finished baking, remove from oven and  let cool before eating.

36 comments:

Peter M said...

Aspasia emailed me with some pics from this gathering and now here are these dishes again.

Love all the offerings, perfect for an afternoon gathering.

lostpastremembered said...

Goodness, the recipes are brilliant and it looks like such a great gathering... I bet my Italian would improve in a group like that!!! WOnderful 'reporting'.

Stacey Snacks said...

The only thing that is missing is Peter M!
Beautiful posts and fun looking bunch of ladies....
I love the red onion slices on the tart!

black eyed susans kitchen said...

This was a lovely post! We usually have a few Greek dishes on our table at holiday time. Maybe it is because my sister in law is Greek, or maybe it is because the food is so good. I never thought of rolling the spanakopita, but will give it a try. The red onions on the tart give it a very artful look.

♥peachkins♥ said...

I wish I was there...

blowing peachkisses
The Peach Kitchen
peach and things

Proud Italian Cook said...

Great recipes here Linda. I had those Kourabiedes before from a sweet 84 year old Greek women I know, I love them, and they do melt in your mouth! Such a fun group you're a part of, and the food is always amazing. Welcome to FB, I tried to do that a couple of times, but wasn't sure I was doing it right and backed out. Did you create a fan page? As you know, I'm technically challenged!

Antonietta said...

What a fun group! Thanks for all these yummy Greek recipes!

Ely said...

quante ricette meravigliose!!!!!

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

What wonderful Greek specialities! Everything looks mouthwatering...

Cheers,

Rosa

Mary said...

I loved this post. The recipes look and sound delicious and are very tempting. How wonderful it must be to meet for this gathering. I wish I waspart of the group. I hope you are having a wonderful day. Blessings...Mary

Linda said...

Lovely Linda...what a nice group you have and I know it must be so much fun talking and eating and laughing together...
L~xo

Cathy said...

How wonderful to belong to a group of such good cooks. I'm envious. I love Greek food and know I would enjoy every dish. I've got my eye on the spanakopita.

annabooklover said...

As a person who has tried Aspasia's cooking in the past I must say I am envious you all had the chance to try this feast! Although I have never tried her "sweet" recipes because I was under the impression she doesn't like sweets and never made them! Great blog and photographs too!

Phyllis said...

What a fun weekly gathering! Thank you for sharing Aspasia's recipes with us, I can't wait to make some of these Greek goodies :)

elra said...

That look absolutely delicious Linda. Love to see that all of you are looking so pretty and happy.
Cheers,
elra

daniela said...

wonderful LINDA!!! é un vero peccato non vivere vicino a te perchè queste splendide cose meritano di essere assaggiate tutte!!! grazie per le ricette e le spiegazioni.
Un super bacione
Dani

Daniela said...

Bellissime queste riunioni, le ricette sono favolose, io le assaggeri tutte.
Un abbraccio Daniela.

Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti said...

What a feast! I am only familiar with a few of the dishes so I'm happy to have all these wonderful recipes! Thanks Linda, Aspasia and Claudine!

I am not familiar with machlepi being used as a condiment -- it's so interesting how everything gets utilized in many Mediterranean cultures.

Jen_from_NJ said...

Yes, I am hungry and ready for a Greek feast! Everything looks delicious. I am not sure what to try first.

Claudia said...

I'm saving this - I mean - i's a cookbook! I want each and every dish. Now. Patience i not one of my virutes. Love the spanikopita rolled up! I'd love an Italian group for challenged-foreign language people. I'm happy to get together with someone occasionally and speak in a New York accent! I'm on Facebook and will look for you. I don't have a fan page - have no idea how to do that - but if You have one I will be your fan! I already am!

LaDue & Crew said...

I feel like I hit the jackpot today by popping in! Fabulous dishes!

Emily said...

Wow! Everything looks absolutely delicious.

LOL to Stacey Snacks. :)

Marcellina said...

Love your Greek recipes. I love having theme dinners for my family and introducing my children to other cultures. I think I'll have to use your recipes next. What a lovely idea to gather Italian speaking women together. That would be wonderful. Though born in Australia Italian was my first language. I love to use it when I can.

Sue said...

Wowee zowee!!! Those are some amazing recipes! Thank you for posting all of them. I LOVE how the onion was fanned out on the goat cheese tart. Gorgeous. Great pictures too.

Chef E said...

Love the idea of this, I was in the French club in Dallas for a while and the women were so fun- of course I was much younger, and only have one woman here I have meet to speak with...the food looks great!

Saw you tonight, but I had to leave, hope you enjoyed Taste Of The Nation

pinknest said...

ohmy what beautiful dishes!!! those onion slices are perfect on that tart. and mmm...ouzo.

lisaiscooking said...

I wish I could show and just listen to everyone speaking Italian, and enjoy the food! This looks like an amazing Greek feast!

Tania said...

Great post and great recipes! Those cookies are very interesting :-P

doggybloggy said...

the cookies in the first shot - thats what I want - I love this kind of cookie - its like a wedding cookie...

Brittany Marie said...

Oh this looks great! What a Greek feast. I will be spending the summer in Greece and I cannot wait for these kinds of delicious food to be waiting for me every day!

CARMELINA LOUNSBURY said...

Ok...Linda here's the scoop...I followed you over here from a comment you left on another blog! and I'm glad I did....

one Italian meets another!
and, I also grew up next to Greek neighbours here in Canada...and those melomakarona cookies are too die for! so tasty, syrupy and sweet! I could eat one after another of those!!!! and I have the recipie too!

anyhow..I'm now following you ...

and i invite you on over to my two blogs as well...it would be great to see you there!

ciao bella
Creative and Conversational
Carmelina

Barbara GF said...

What a wonderful group of ladies, Linda, and an enticing array of some of my favorite foods. I had a colleague who was Greek and her mom always made the kourabiedes, which we would devour in the newsroom (you could follow the trail of crumbs to our desks).
I would have loved to have been part of that feast! So great you meet and chat in Italian. Ciao!

CARMELINA LOUNSBURY said...

hi again!
do come by today and enter my giveaway!

ciao bella

@ Creative Carmelina

Bridgett said...

I love the feast! I can imagine your group had a wonderful time.

janelle said...

I love that pic of all the women! So cool!

BTW we just lived a year abroad in Italy too;). My husbands gma was northern Italian and his gpa southern...

my food blog is italianesque too: www.talkoftomatoes.com and our family is blogging about our year abroad! www.familyfrolics.com

How was re-entry? We go home to the states in June...

easy-salad-recip.com said...

Wonderful collection of recipes and photos. I really enjoyed it.