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:
Among the various Greek dishes Aspasia made was this dish of spanakopita, rolled up rather than folded into the traditional triangles:
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.A plateful of melomakarona also tempted us. These sweet treats are flavored with cloves and sprinkled with syrup and nuts.
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!
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)
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
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)
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.
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.
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.
Greek Honey-Walnut Cookies
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!!
2 ½ cups water
3 cups white sugar
½ lemon (juice of)
1 tbsp. honey
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)
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!!!:
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.