Wednesday, December 30, 2009


This is Linus. A five and a half year old bichon frise who is very active and very affectionate. He also has a very healthy appetite. So it is fitting that there should be a post about him here, in a food related blog. He has watched me cook every recipe I've posted. He has even sampled some of them. Linus was kind enough to pose for the camera on Christmas day, 2009. With him was his very close and very best friend, Bastille. Linus hopes that everyone had a lovely Christmas, and he wishes a Happy New Year to all! Bastille concurs!

Bastille knows there's snow outside. On such days, she considers lounging by the fireplace a splendid passtime! This year we had a white Christmas. December snows are rare here in Philadelphia. We enjoyed the fire 'til the last few embers changed into ashes.

Bastille was feeling under the weather. The vet prescribed antibiotics, and she napped a lot. Bastille, get well soon! We love you very much!

Happy 2010 everyone!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


String bean casserole is a popular side dish to make during the holidays. Usually one finds recipes for it that call for canned cream of mushroom soup and bags of frozen green beans. Why use canned soup? It has an unbelievably high sodium content. Here we have a recipe that replaces the canned soup for a flavorful roux containing fresh mushrooms. The green beans are fresh and blanched to preserve their lovely green color. The onion rings are mixed with buttered bread crumbs, and once the topping is baked it takes on a crunchy and buttery deliciousness. Go back to the "original" recipes? After tasting this, NEVER!

  1. 1 lb green beans, halved, ends trimmed
  2. 2 tablespoons olive oil
  3. 1 shallot, minced
  4. 2 tablespoons parsley
  5. 2 tablespoons butter
  6. ½ lb mushrooms, sliced
  7. 3 cloves garlic, minced
  8. 2 ½ tablespoons flour
  9. ¾ cup low sodium chicken broth
  10. ¾ heavy cream
  11. Ingredients for the topping, see below

  • Blanch the string beans: Drop them in salted boiling water, lower the heat and cook them for 10 to 15 minutes, or until desired doneness is reached. Drain and blanch them by immersing them in an ice bath. This will stop the cooking process and preserve the green color of the string beans. Remove them and place them on paper towels to dry.

  • In a skillet heat the olive oil, lower the heat and add the shallot and parsley. Cook for one minute. Stir in the string beans and season with salt and pepper. Cook for one more minute stirring, remove from the heat and reserve.

  • Melt the butter and add the mushrooms and garlic. Season with salt & pepper and sauté until the mushrooms release their moisture and their liquid begins to evaporate, about 4 minutes.

  • Add the flour and keep stirring the mixture for about one minute. Add the broth and bring to a boil stirring all the while. Lower the heat, add the cream and simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring often, until you have a thickened mixture.

  • Add green beans to the cream and mix well. Correct the seasoning by adding salt and pepper if needed. Arrange the ingredients in a baking dish, spreading them in an even layer.

  • Sprinkle with the topping (see topping ingredients below), and bake at 425° F for about 15 minutes, until the cream is bubbly and the topping is crispy.
  • This dish can be partially prepared one day ahead. After arranging the string beans in a baking dish cover them and store them in the refrigerator. Store the topping in a separate container, and finish assembling when ready to bake. Make sure that you bring the dish to room temperature before baking.

2 slices bread
1 tablespoon butter
1½ cups canned fried onion rings (3 oz)

  • Pulse the bread and butter and add it to the onion rings, mix well.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Escarole Soup, or Italian Wedding Soup

Mrs D is of Irish decent, a Canadian from Newfoundland, and she's had the reputation of making the best Italian home cooked meals in Philadelphia. That's a lot to say considering that there is such a large Italian population in the Philadelphia area. Many will disagree and nominate someone else to take over Mrs D's spot. I understand. A home cooked meal shared in the company of family and friends, made by a person one holds dear, can transport us to places of happiness and comfort and contentment. I suppose those are situations when we regress a bit, and become childishly carefree. We share our joy with those around us and we feel ever so cozy in the company of our host. Those are times well spent. So I am grateful to Mrs D and her family for "adopting" me, and giving me wonderful memories of occasions spent at their dining room table and at their hearth side. Mrs D, whose first name is Carmel, met Richard D, her Italian-American husband-to-be when he was stationed at an American air force base in Stephenville, Newfoundland, during the Korean war. Their love blossomed, they were soon married, and Carmel found herself ensconced in her new home in Philadelphia. It was West Philadelphia to be exact, the Overbrook section, St Donato's parish. Overbrook in West Philadelphia, was one of the neighborhoods where a large population of Italian Americans called home. Some of them still live there, most (like Mrs D and her family), have moved away. Carmel became close with her in-laws, especially with Anne, her new aunt. Aunt Anne taught Carmel all about Italian cooking, and soon Carmel was on her way to becoming a superb Italian home cook.
Carmel and Richard D... wonderful people!
So... my best friend is Donna D, Carmel's daughter. It is through Donna that I was first invited to Mrs D's, where eventually I spent many a Sunday and a holiday, sitting around the dinning room table talking, playing cards and "eating Italian." Thanksgiving and Christmas meals would always begin with escarole soup, otherwise known as Italian wedding soup. To honor Mrs D and Donna, I have taken escarole soup, tweaked it slightly (I like tweaking with recipes), and incorporated it into my own holiday traditions. Now when my Greek-Spanish-Italian family gets together for the holidays, we start our meals with escarole soup. When I go to see Donna for Christmas I always take a pot of the soup with me. We enjoy those succulent little meatballs swirling in aromatic chicken broth, and we reminisce about the old times. Her mother, our dear Carmel, is still with us at age 82, however she has succumbed to Alzheimer's disease. Unfortunately, her memory loss has become significant. She now resides in a nursing home and Donna oversees her care. Mrs D, Carmel, Carm, we remember you, we miss you, we love you!


Step 1: Make the chicken broth.
You can use store bought chicken broth, but we all know that to have a good soup base we must make our own broth, with chicken and soup vegetables. Store bought broth is all right to use if you need to make the soup in a jiffy, but for a special occasion start from scratch. To lessen the labor involved, the broth can be made a day before, or you can use broth you've made previously and then frozen. Here's how:

  1. Clean and wash one 5 lb chicken. Place it in a large soup pot. Add:
  2. three carrots roughly chopped
  3. three stalks of celery with leaves, roughly chopped
  4. one onion peeled and cut in quarters
  5. one parsnip roughly chopped
  6. one turnip cut in quarters
  7. one leek roughly chopped
  8. Add some dill and parsley, stems and all. Now spice it up:
  9. Add ten peppercorns, three cloves of garlic cut up, and salt.
  10. Pour water over the ingredients, filling the pot to about one inch from the rim. Place it on the stove top and bring to a boil, turn heat to low and cover. Allow soup to cook slowly, until the meat of the chicken can be easily pulled off the bone. Turn off the heat, and cool.
  11. When the meat is cool enough to handle, remove the chicken from the pot. Strain the broth and reserve it. Press down on the vegetables with a masher to remove their excess liquid and combine it with the reserved broth. Discard the vegetables.
  12. Remove the meat from the chicken bones and reserve some breast meat to be used when assembling the soup.
  13. You can save the rest of the cooked chicken for another use. You now have the broth that will be used as a base for your soup. Refrigerate it until ready to use.
  14. Tip: the fat in the broth rises to the top. While the broth is in the refrigerator, the fat will solidify. You can skim it off, and you will have a fat free broth.
Step 2: Prepare the escarole.

  1. Cook the escarole separately rather than in the broth. To save time you can make it a day ahead and store it in the refrigerator.
  2. Clean one large or two small heads of escarole very carefully. You'll have to wash them several times to make sure no soil or sand remains stuck to the leaves.
  3. Cut the escarole into pieces one to two inches in length
  4. Bring a pot of salted water to boil and add the escarole. Cook for about five minutes, until the escarole is wilted and has given off its liquid. Turn off the heat and drain the escarole. Immerse it in an ice water bath to blanch it. After about five minutes drain it and reserve it until ready to use.
Step 3: Make the meatballs.

  1. 1 lb lean ground beef
  2. 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  3. 3 cloves garlic, minced
  4. 3 tablespoons parsley, minced
  5. 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  6. 1 egg beaten
  7. 2 tablespoons milk
  8. salt and pepper to taste
Combine all the ingredients and shape into small meatballs, about one inch in diameter. Saute the meatballs in some vegetable oil until they are browned. Remove them onto paper towels. The meatballs will finish cooking in the broth.

Step 4: Assemble the soup
  1. Bring the broth to a boil (you should have about ten cups).
  2. Add two diced carrots and four chopped green onions.
  3. Drop the meatballs into the boiling liquid, lower the heat and finish cooking them.
  4. Cut up the reserved chicken breast into bite-sized pieces and add it to the broth.
  5. Add the escarole.
  6. Add two tablespoons of chopped dill and one tablespoon chopped parsley.
  7. Ready to serve! Plate it and pass around grated Parmesan cheese to sprinkle on top.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


More fun with cabbage, the super vegetable. As I wrote in a previous post, cabbage is very low in calories - 35 calories for one cup. It's a good source of protein, vitamin C, vitamin A, potassium, calcium, and fiber. It contains nutrients with anti-cancer properties, something cabbage has in common with the other vegetables in the cruciferae family to which it belongs. "Cruciferous" plants are so named because they bear four petaled flowers, thus having blooms reminiscent of a crucifix. Some of the other vegetables in this family are: broccoli, cauliflower, kale, Brussels sprout, turnip, radish, rapeseed (from which canola oil is processed), watercress, etc, etc, all of them with nutrients similar to those of cabbage, and all of them good for you.

At home, we remember the cabbage dishes grandmother used to make. My mother's family were "Thrakiotes," ethnic Greeks who lived in Thrace, a province in South-Eastern Europe. After World War I, these Greeks, as well as the Greeks of Asia Minor, were relocated to the nation of Greece, in compliance with the Treaty of Lausanne. My relatives settled in Prosotsani, Macedonia, in Northern Greece. They were refugees among many other Greek refugees, all of whom had been persecuted, had lost their property, had family members massacred by the Turks. They settled in their new homeland with very few belongings, but my grandmother, Serafia, carried with her in her mind and in her heart her memories, her traditions, and since she liked to cook, her recipes. In their new homeland, my grandmother, and Kyriakos, my grandfather, started their family.

Thrakiotes are known for cooking dishes that contain cabbage or sauerkraut. Below is a recipe, good winter fare, that my grandmother used to make. Sometimes it would be served on its own, often it would accompany her roast chicken. I remember it in its serving platter in the middle of the table. I would be visiting in Prosotsani during the Christmas holiday. Yiayia, as all Greek children call their

Yiayia Serafia, shortly after arriving in Prosotsani, Greece.

grandmothers, had all ready called me several times to abandon my play and come in for dinner. When I finally made my entrance into the kitchen, my relatives would be sitting around the table eating. I would take my seat, and as I bit into my slice of bread my grandmother would fill my plate. How satisfied with warmth and happiness I am right now, thinking of my Thracian grandmother reigning in her kitchen!

Lahanorizo (cabbage and rice):
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 head of cabbage, shredded
1 lb canned tomatoes, chopped
3 cups chicken broth
1 cup rice
1/2 cup raisins
1/4 cup slivered almonds
1/4 cup pine nuts
salt and pepper to taste

  • In a dutch oven heat the olive oil and saute the onion and garlic until the onions are translucent.
  • Add the cabbage and continue to saute, stirring frequently until the cabbage softens, about three minutes.
  • Add the tomatoes and chicken broth and and mix. Bring to a boil.
  • Add the rice, raisins, almonds, pine nuts, and salt and pepper. Stir, and simmer over low heat until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is cooked. Make sure the rice does not dry out.
  • Place the rice in a serving bowl and toss, then serve.

Saturday, November 28, 2009


Alex, my eight-year-old nephew who is in the third grade, wrote an essay as a class assignment. It's about Bob, a turkey who escaped from the truck that was transporting him to Washington DC. I suppose Bob didn't want to join all the other turkeys that inhabit our fair capital. Good for him! You will see after reading the story, that Bob found better accommodations.

After we assembled around the table for Thanksgiving dinner, my brother read to us "The lost turkey named Bob." Alex, the author of the piece was too bashful to read it to us himself. We listened, we applauded, and filled with mirth we began our dinner. I am thankful for my family and friends and I wish that each Thanksgiving I spend on this earth finds me just a bit wiser than the one before.

And now, here is the story of...

"The Lost Turkey Named Bob:"
written by Alex, who is in the 3rd grade.

     ON a nice November night a turkey named Bob was wandering in the very creepy woods. Bob did not know what was in the woods. But one day he found a house. The owner's name was ALEX. "Gobble, Gobble," said Bob. Alex let him in.
Meanwhile at a base somewhere in Canada...

"A turkey has escaped!"

"Where is it?" asked the commander. "How did it escape?" "Did it climb out of the truck?" "NOW WHAT DO WE DO?!"

Back at Alex's house the turkey was asleep safe and sound. The agents in Canada were planning what to do. "Okay does anyone know where Bob is?"

No one had any idea!

Bob was on his way to Washington D.C. to be the guest of honor at the White House when he jumped from the back of the truck. Alex was happy to have him in his house instead. Alex was a great host. The agents searched. They never found Alex's house.

It's lucky Alex only eats chicken.

The END.

When he is not playing host to Bob the turkey, Alex loves to play ice hockey.

Alex at summer ice hockey camp, with New Jersey Devils goaltender Marty Brodeur.

Summer 2009, Alex and dad Tasos, at hockey camp, post-practice.

Bob went on to have kids! 

Monday, November 23, 2009


I'm going retro with this recipe, but I am hoping that one day it will come back into style. When I first made cranberry salad mould, it was still au courant, but that was a while ago. Since then it has become an absolute staple at our Thanksgiving table. It's both sweet and tart, it's crunchy, and above all, it's really, really fruity. It reminds me of a Waldorf salad with cranberries. It's very retro! It's also very colourful, and it's very much requested by friends and family come Thanksgiving. I discovered the recipe in a magazine many years ago, and I made it by following the recipe precisely. Well, as the years went by I changed a bit of this, I added a bit of that, and then I went ahead and lost the original recipe. So I guess the current version is half borrowed, half invented and half taken from someplace else. Yes, in my world of mathematics there can sometimes exist three halves to one whole. Anyway, everyone loves this cranberry mould, and every Thanksgiving folks make sure I'll be making it. Sometimes, someone asks for the recipe. My reply is usually a perplexed smile, not because I don't want to give away any archival recipe secrets, but because I don't have a specific cranberry mould recipe written down. So now that I have my very own blog, and now that Thanksgiving is upon us, and now that I am getting ready to make my cranberry mould for the big day, I've decided to get the ingredients together and to write down the recipe while I am making it. This is a really good idea. After all, I am getting older, and who knows, I might start forgetting things. What would happen to Thanksgiving if I couldn't remember how to make a decent cranberry mould? People would be sad. No one will love me during the holidays. The stress would be unbearable. Here's the recipe, written down and saved for posterity.
Some things are canned, and some things are fresh.  Shown here are the ingredients for the cranberry salad. The apple is always, always a Honeycrisp! Best variety in my opinion.

2 (14 ounces) cans whole berry cranberry sauce
2 cups pure cranberry juice, no sugar added
4 tablespoons lemon juice
2 (3 ounces) packages of raspberry flavoured Jello
1 tablespoon of unflavored gelatin
1 (16 ounces) can of crushed pineapple packed in pineapple juice, not syrup, or go ahead and use fresh pineapple cut up into small pieces, nothing wrong with that!
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup seedless grapes, cut in half, lengthwise
1medium apple peeled, cored, and chopped into small pieces
1/2 cup of celery

  • Buy that nice, really tart organic cranberry juice that contains nothing but cranberries. That one is the best!  
  • In a large saucepan combine the cranberry juice with the lemon juice and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and add the Jello and the gelatin, stirring with a whisk until they completely dissolve into the juice.
  • To this add the cranberry sauce and keep stirring until it breaks up and mixes well with the warm liquid. Pour into a large glass container and place in the refrigerator. Keep an eye on it, and take it out of the refrigerator when it's almost set. 
After the sauce is almost set, add the rest of the ingredients and mix.
  • Now comes the time to mix with the rest of the ingredients. They must be mixed in when the sauce is almost set. This way they will adhere to the gelatin, and they will be evenly distributed. If you add them when the sauce is still in its liquid state, they will float to the top and stay there.
  • Fold the pineapple into the cold cranberry sauce, gently mixing it well.  Add a little of the pineapple juice, not all of it.
  • Add all the other ingredients one by one until they are well incorporated into that beautiful red mush.
  • After everything is mixed well, pour it into a nice mould and place it back in the refrigerator.  Allow it to set completely.  It should be left in overnight.
  • When you are ready to serve it, take the mould out of the refrigerator and let it rest in a warm bath for a just a few minutes and only a few minutes. This will allow the gelatin to loosen easily from the mould. If it stays in the hot water a little too long, it will start to liquefy.  
  • Place a serving plate on top of the mould and carefully invert the salad onto the plate. Now you will unmold your creation: give it a gentle shake, and you will see that you will be able to pull the mould away from the gelatin. It will look beautiful! You can decorate your serving plate with some greens or with additional fruit.  
  • If you do not serve this right away, you can plate it a short while before dinner and then place it back in the refrigerator until it's time to bring it to the table. 
  • The ingredients listed here fill my mould plus allow for a bit to be left over. I cool that portion in a plain container and save it for later. What you see plated here tends to disappear quickly.
 I decorated with mums from my garden and with kumquats.  One of my favourite colours for mums, white with a blush of purple! Who can resist that?

Monday, October 26, 2009

Butter Cookies with Cinnamon-Sugar and Almond Topping

Close up, this doily almost looks like a spider's web. Perfect choice for this time of year, when we are so close to Halloween. I've started going through my cookie recipes, deciding which ones will be featured on this year's winter holiday menus. Here is a favourite: these cookies are a Martha Stewart creation. This is a delicious, buttery recipe, and we make it often. Not too many ingredients, and well worth trying! Recommended! 


1 1/2 cups sweet butter at room temperature
3/4 cup powdered sugar (10x)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups flour
Make an egg wash by beating together 1 egg and 2 tablespoons milk
Sliced almonds for topping
A mixture of cinnamon and sugar for topping
Salt and pepper to taste... (Just kidding. No salt or pepper needed)


  • Preheat the oven to 350-degrees F/180-degrees Celcius. 
  • Sift the flour with the salt.
  • Beat the butter with the powdered sugar until light and fluffy. Incorporate the vanilla extract.
  • Slowly add the flour. 
  • When the dough is mixed, place it in the refrigerator for about an hour. 
  • Line your cookie sheets with parchment paper. 
  • Take the dough out of the refrigerator and cut it into small pieces, moulding each into rounds about an inch and a half in diameter.
  • Brush the tops of the cookies with the egg wash. 
  • Sprinkle the cinnamon-sugar mixture over them
  • Place a few sliced almonds on top of the cinnamon-sugar.
  • Bake for 20 minutes or until the cookies are golden in colour.
  • Remove from the oven, let them cool, and enjoy!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Greek-Style Feta Cheese Empanadas!

To make these empanadas (which accompanied a recent dinner of fassolatha soup), will need a package of ready-made empanada disks. A good brand to buy is the one from "Goya Foods," found in your grocer's freezer. There are ten empanada disks per package. Defrost according to instructions. 

Additional ingredients:
  • 3/4 cup of crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/4 cup of ricotta cheese
  • 2 Kalamata olives pitted and diced (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint 
  • A little olive oil and some Pecorino Romano cheese
  • Some water and a pastry brush
  • Preheat the oven to 350-degrees F/180-degrees C. 
  • Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Make a cheese stuffing by mixing all the ingredients.
  • Take an empanada disk and using a brush, wet its circumference with a bit of water.
  • Place about a tablespoon of the stuffing on one half of the disk.  
  • Fold over the other half, joining it to create a half moon shape. 
  • The water you've used will make the two layers of dough adhere to themselves. Create a decorative edging using the tines of a fork. 
  • Place the empanada on your prepared baking sheet 
  • Repeat!
  • Brush the tops with some olive oil and sprinkle Pecorino Romano cheese as a topping. 
  • Bake for about 15 minutes, or until the dough develops a nice crust. 
  • These are not traditional empanadas, but the combination of cheeses and the fact that they are baked and not fried makes them irresistible. They are reminiscent of a Greek tyropita.  

Friday, October 23, 2009


Fassolatha is the Greek word for bean soup. This traditional soup is a meal that is simple to make, easy on the budget, and big on deliciousness. A favourite winter food, it warms one up on a cold day! 

Very nutritious, beans contain almost no fat, are high in protein, fibre, complex carbohydrates, and are a great source of calcium, potassium, B vitamins, and iron. How perfect is that? Considering beans were one of the first crops to be cultivated by humans, they have played an integral part in the development of civilization. 

Fassolatha is a staple in Greek cuisine. I would call it Greek soul food. I would also call it the Greek national dish. Greeks not only savour a bowl of fassolatha, they respect it! Stories of hard times abound in Greece, times when folk would have beans to eat and nothing else. During the World War II years for example, people would stow away a sack or two of beans for soup to help them make it through the winter. My older relatives would often recount stories of their experience during the brutal nazi occupation of Greece, and they would tell me how they staved off famine through a steady diet of fassolatha. My father has said that to have had beans to eat during the war was like having gold! 

Of course, during those times the soup was made without any oil; there was no oil available, therefore Greeks used just plain water. My mother told me that she didn't see a single olive for all the years of the nazi occupation, something I find to be an unsettling fact for a nation that produces high amounts of both olives and olive oil. Regrettably, most everything produced by Greeks was appropriated by the nazis. And yet, and yet ... fassolatha kept the Greek population going and resisting. Thyme and oregano grew wild on the hillsides, and the Greeks would pick them, and they would pick whatever other greens grew wild, and along with beans, they would have a war-time feast. 

Unfortunately, famine still exists in the world, and there are people (even in the good old USA), who do not have the means to supply food for their family. Among all the inequities in the world, this is one of the most horrible and painful. 

I always have a certain amount of reverence and love in my heart when I make this soup. It is Greek soul food, and much like American soul food, it has been on the table in good times and in bad, in times of plenty and in times of want.


  • 1/4 olive oil
  • 1 large onion chopped
  • 3 ribs of celery, leaves included, chopped
  • 4 carrots, chopped 
  • 1 bell pepper, diced 
  • optional: a small hot pepper, sliced
  • tomatoes, peeled, seeded, chopped or use canned whole tomatoes: I'll let you decide on the amount
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme
  • 1 teaspoon of dried oregano
  • 1 pound dried beans which have been rinsed, soaked overnight, and drained 
  • 6 cups water, and go ahead, substitute vegetable broth for some of the water, but make sure its salt content is low: beans will taste better when cooked fully before adding salt. 
  • 4 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • another 1/4 cup olive oil


  • In a soup pot heat 1/4 cup of olive oil and add the onions, celery, pepper, and carrots.
  • Saute until the onions are translucent. Add the tomatoes and stir for about two minutes.
  • Add the black pepper, thyme and oregano. 
  • Carefully fold in the beans.
  • Add the liquid and bring to a boil. 
  • Lower the heat and simmer for about one and a half hour: cook until the beans are soft. 
  • It was my mother's idea to start using caned beans. It's faster and convenient she said, plus "if they already soften them for us, why should I bother soaking them overnight?" However, what really prompted her to start experimenting with canned beans was that the dried ones in the US do not have the flavour or substance similar to those in Greece. But somehow, the canned ones fit the bill perfectly. If you will use dried beans check the expiration date: when dried beans have been hanging on the shelf too long, they will never soften no matter how long they are cooked for. 
  • About 10 minutes before turning off the heat add the parsley, the other 1/4 cup of olive oil, and salt to taste. Remember that salt always gets added last. 
Sometimes the soup is accompanied with lemon slices. 

Serve with some nice fresh bread and a salad, or ... Today, while the soup was cooking I decided to make some (Greek-style) empanadas for accompaniment. They turned out delicious! 

Greek-Style Feta Cheese Empanadas!

To make these empanadas you will need a package of ready-made empanada disks. A good brand to buy is the one from "Goya Foods," found in your grocer's freezer. There are ten empanada disks per package. Defrost according to instructions. 

Additional ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup of crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/4 cup of ricotta cheese
  • 2 Kalamata olives pitted and diced (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint 
  • A little olive oil and some Pecorino Romano cheese
  • Some water and a pastry brush

  • Preheat the oven to 350-degrees F/180-degrees C. 
  • Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Make a cheese stuffing by mixing all the ingredients.
  • Take an empanada disk and using a brush, wet its circumference with a bit of water.
  • Place about a tablespoon of the stuffing on one half of the disk.  
  • Fold over the other half, joining it to create a half moon shape. 
  • The water you've used will make the two layers of dough adhere to themselves. Create a decorative edging using the tines of a fork. 
  • Place the empanada on your prepared baking sheet 
  • Repeat!
  • Brush the tops with some olive oil and sprinkle Pecorino Romano cheese as a topping. 
  • Bake for about 15 minutes, or until the dough develops a nice crust. 
  • These are not traditional empanadas, but the combination of cheeses and the fact that they are baked and not fried makes them irresistible. They are reminiscent of a Greek tyropita.  

Monday, October 12, 2009

KOULOURAKIA or... Greek butter cookies

Six thirty, and dark outside. We've jumped into fall. Τoday I took a short drive around the neighborhood. Halloween decorations already have taken over people's lawns; some are nice, others are just too gaudy. I hope I won't look out my window one of these days to find a seven-foot inflatable pumpkin glaring at me from my neighbor's yard. No, I don't have that goofy Haloween spirit. Perhaps I need to look for it. Or perhaps not. I've planted some colorful chrysanthemums all around my garden. They look lovely, and they blend in well with the changing foliage. So I do have some autumnal spirit. I am enjoying the crisp weather, the sudden gusts of wind that make the first crop of fallen leaves swirl and fly on. I think of what's ahead. Other holidays are on their way. Soon it will be time to bake and box cookies for gift giving. Koulourakia, my childhood delights! I have a favorite recipe for them, I made some this weekend. Come Christmas I'll make them again, and swirl them into pretty shapes.


  • 1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1cup sugar
  • 1egg at room temperature
  • 1 egg yolk at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 shot of your favorite cognac
  • zest of one large orange
  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 5 and 1/2 cups of flour, sifted
  • egg wash: 1 egg beaten with a bit of water
  • about 3 tablespoons sesame seeds to sprinkle on the cookies (optional)
  1. In a large mixing bowl cream the butter until it's light and fluffy. Add the sugar and beat until well incorporated with the butter, about five minutes. Add the egg and the egg yolk and continue beating. Stir in the vanilla and orange rind, slowly add the orange juice and the cognac and incorporate them into the mixture.
  2. Sift one cup of the flour together with the baking powder. Gradually add it to the butter and sugar mixture. Begin gradually adding the rest of the sifted flour. As it accumulates into the mixture you can gently knead the cookie dough by hand. The cookie dough will be ready when it is soft and pliable and no longer sticks to the sides of the mixing bowl. It will need to rest, so place it into the refrigerator for one hour. Then, shape it into small balls like these:

Because the dough will be cold it will be easier to shape. Line your cookie sheets with parchment paper...

On a smooth surface shape the dough balls into cookies. First roll a strip...
Then fold it in two, cross one of the ends over...
Then cross the other end. You are basically rolling and twisting. Line them up on the parchment paper and brush the tops with egg wash. If you wish you can sprinkle some sesame seeds on top of the egg wash. You can see I didn't use sesame seeds - I didn't have any in the house, plus the cookies taste just as good without the seeds as with them.
For this amount of dough, I use three trays each measuring 10x15 inches.
Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven until the cookies are golden in color, about 15 minutes.

Not too sweet, with and with such a wonderful buttery flavor!