Wednesday, December 22, 2010


Skordalia is a traditional accompaniment to fish. It can also be served as a dip with sliced bread or crudités. There are several ingredients that can form the base of skordalia: walnuts, potatoes, bread, almonds. One ingredient all versions have in common is the addition of garlic, and garlic, and some garlic. My stomach likes for me to tone down the amount of garlic I use in skordalia. You can can use as much or as little as you like. It all depends on personal preference and social engagements. The recipe here is trully delicious (I mean it), and is based on the one found in the cookbook "The Foods of Greece," by Aglaia Kremezi.


2 cups cubed day-old whole-wheat bread, soaked in water until softened
2 or 3 cloves of garlic, peeled and cut in half
1/4 cup capers, rinsed and drained, 1 tablespoon reserved for garnish
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup blanched whole almonds, soaked overnight in water and drained
1 medium potato, boiled, peeled and mashed
Freshly ground salt and pepper to taste


  • Squeeze the excess water from the soaked bread and place it in a food processor. Add the garlic and process until it forms a smooth paste. Add the capers and process until smooth. With the motor running, add the olive oil, a little at a time. Add the lemon juice and the almonds and pulse to coarsely chop.

  • Scrape the mixture into a medium bowl and fold in the mashed potato. (Do not do this in the food processor, or the potato will become gluey.) Season with pepper and, if necessary, salt to taste. If you like add more lemon juice to taste. Cover and refrigerate for at least two hours.

  • Stir in a few tablespoons of water if the dip is very thick. Garnish with the remaining tablespoon of capers.


I think mom wins. The bacaliaro fritters in the picture above were made by my mother. In the picture below you can see the ones I made.

It was my mother's idea to add some baking powder to the batter, something which made the fritters fluffier and lighter. That made all the difference, and so she won, hands down. After all mom has more experience in the kitchen. Mine didn't taste that bad. They were good. They just didn't have that something extra.

These are mom's, and they have that "something extra."

Anyway, salt cod is cod that has been preserved by a method of drying and salting. In its preserved state the fish can last for a few years. Production of salt cod dates back at least 500 years, to the time that Europeans discovered the Grand Banks of Newfoundland. Due to abundant nutrients and ideal water temperatures, the Grand Banks were at one time the richest fishing grounds in the world. Today, sadly, the area has been overfished. Salt cod was a vital item of commerce between the New World and the Old. In the Mediterranean it is a traditional ingredient in the cuisine of most countries.
Salt cod for sale at the grocer's
In Greece, salt cod is usually fried and served with an accompaniment of skordalia. There are various recipes for skordalia, and I have some posted on this blog. Recently, I made salt cod fritters (for the first time), and I served them with a skordalia made with potatoes, capers and almonds. The whole meal was very enjoyable, very traditional, and thanks to the skordalia, very garlicky!

Not to be outdone, my mother made her version of bacaliaro fritters a few days latter, insisting her recipe was better. Darn if she wasn't right. The recipe included here is mom's.


1 & 1/2 pounds boneless, dry salted cod
8 ounces of beer
1 cup all-purpose flour
about 2 or 3 cups canola oil, for frying
ground black pepper to taste

1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon baking powder
a dash of paprika (optional)

This was my first time ever making salt cod fritters. They were good, but... if I had flattened them more before frying, they would have cooked more evenly.

  • Rinse the excess salt from the cod. Place it in a large bowl, and cover it with cold water by several inches. Soak, refrigerated, for 24 hours, changing the water every 6 to 8 hours. Drain for the last time and pat dry with paper towels.
  • Using your hands, shred the salt cod finely and place into a large bowl.
  • Mix the flour with the baking powder and black pepper. Add the paprika if using.
  • In a small bowl add the beer and whisk in the flour, whisking until no lumps remain.
  • Stir the flour mixture into the shredded salt cod until well combined. Add the beaten egg and mix well.
  • Heat the oil in a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, working in batches, use a spoon to mold the fish into flattened balls about 2 inches in diameter. Carefully slip them into the oil. Do not overcrowd the pan because the temperature of the oil will drop and the fritters will get soggy.
  • Cook, turning once, until golden brown, about 6 minutes. Drain on paper towels.
  • Serve warm with caper and almond skordalia (recipe is here).

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


Christmas time fills the house with the pleasing aroma of freshly baked cookies. In Greek homes, center stage in the cookie department belongs to melomakarona. They are the quintessential Christmas cookie for Greeks, a concoction flavored with orange, lemon, cinnamon, cloves, and honey.

There is some evidence that a version of these cookies originated in antiquity. Melomakarona are also called phoenikia, and the latter word suggests that they probably originated with the Phoenicians, a seafaring people who lived in regions of Asia Minor and were antiquity's best known traders.
Etymologically, melomakarona is comprised of the words meli + makaroni. Meli means honey in Greek, which fits, since the cookies are dipped in honey. Makaroni or macaroni, is a word of Greek-Latin origin, whose root means a doughy substance, or a substance which is kneaded or macerated. Therefore, in its most basic form the word melomakarona means a piece of dough which is dipped in honey.* It's amazing to think what a long history these cookies have, and how they evolved into the present day holiday treats.

I made a batch of melomakarona the other day, with a recipe I found in the cookbook "The Foods of Greece," written by Aglaia Kremezi. It's a recipe with a good crunch and a good flavor. It's made with vegetable oil, semolina and flour. (Semolina can be found in specialty shops, and it's also sold as "farina" cereal in most supermarkets). Spices and citrus flavors are added into the mix, and after the cookies are baked, they are dipped in a honey syrup. I like the taste of these melomakarona, and I recommend this version wholeheartedly.

Ingredients: (makes about 50 cookies)
1& 1/4 cups oil
1/3 cup sugar
1 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
3 to 4 cups all purpose flour
2& 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup brandy
1& 1/2 cups semolina
Grated rinds of 1 orange and 1 lemon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

For the Syrup:

1 cup sugar
1cup honey
2 cups water
1 large piece of orange peel
1 large piece of lemon peel
1 stick of cinnamon

For the topping:

1 cup of coarsely ground walnuts mixed with 1 teaspoon of cinnamon and 1 teaspoon ground cloves.

  • In a mixer beat the olive oil with the sugar. Add the orange juice.
  • In a separate bowl mix 2 cups of flour with the baking powder and then add it to the oil and orange mixture.
  • Beat while adding the brandy, semolina, orange and lemon peel, cloves and cinnamon.
  • Turn the mixture onto a floured surface and knead gently, adding more flour as needed, to obtain a soft and elastic dough.
  • Let stand for 30 minutes covered with plastic wrap.
  • Preheat the oven to 350° F.
  • Take tablespoonfuls of dough and shape them into oval cookies about 2 & 1/2 inches long. Press them on the top with the back of a fork to mark them with horizontal lines. Place them on a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper and bake for about 25 minutes. Place on a rack and let cool.

To make the honey syrup:

  • In a saucepan mix the sugar, honey, and water and bring to a boil.
  • Add the orange peel, lemon peel, and the cinnamon stick and simmer for about 15 minutes.
  • Remove from the heat.
To finish the cookies:

  • Place 2 or 3 cookies in a large slotted spoon and dip them in the syrup. Don't let them soak for too long. They should absorb some syrup yet still remain crunchy.
  • Place them on a serving dish and sprinkle the walnut topping over them.
  • Let cool before serving. The melomakarona should keep for about two weeks.

with a section written in Greek, and a section in English borrowed from "An Etymology Dictionary of the English Language, by Walter W. Skeat, 1893."Below is the English entry:
MACARONI, MACCARONI, a paste made of wheat flour. (Ital.,—L.?) ‘He doth learn to make strange sauces, to eat anchovies, maccaroni, bovoli, fagioli, and caviare;’ Ben Jonson, Cynthia’s Revels, A. ii (Mercury). ‘Macaroni, gobbets or lumps of boyled paste,’ &c.; Minsheu, ed. 1627.—O. Ital. maccaroni, ‘a kinde of paste meate boiled in broth, and drest with butter, cheese, and spice;’ Florio. The mod. Ital. spelling is maccheroni, properly the plural of maccherone, used in the sense of a ‘macarone’ biscuit. β. Of somewhat doubtful origin; but prob. to be connected with Gk. μακαρία, a word used by Hesychius to denote βρῶμα ἐκ ζωμοῦ καὶ ἀλφίτων, a mess of broth and pearl-barley, a kind of porridge. This word is derived by Curtius (i. 405) from Gk. μάσσειν, to knead, of which the base is μακ-; cf. Gk. μᾶζα, dough, Russ. muka, flour, meal. γ. Similarly the Ital. macaroni is prob. from O. Ital. maccare, ‘to bruise, to batter, to pester;’ Florio. And, again, the Ital. maccare is from a Lat. base mac-, to knead, preserved in the deriv. macerare, to macerate, reduce to pulp. See Macerate. δ. Thus the orig. sense seems to have been ‘pulp;’ hence anything of a pulpy or pasty nature. Der. Macaron-ic, from F. macaronique, ‘a macaronick, a confused heap or huddle of many severall things’ (Cot.), so named from macaroni, which was orig. a mixed mess, as described by Florio above. The name macaroni, according to Haydn, Dict. of Dates, was given to a poem by Theophilo Folengo (otherwise Merlinus Coccaius) in 1509; macaronic poetry is a kind of jumble, often written in a mixture of languages.

Here is a picture of melomakarona taken by a professional photographer. They rest on a counter in a Greek bakery, and they are so much more photogenic than mine. They were made by a professional baker, who is also much better at shaping these cookies than I am. Melomakarona should be a perfect, perfect oval. (I found this picture on the inernet at ).

Friday, December 17, 2010


On a recent visit to the vegetable market I found some very nice looking leeks. Nice unwrinkled white stalks with bright green stems, fresh looking, just begging to be sold. So I bought a few, even though they were not on my list, and I figured that I would find something to make with them when I got home. No problem there. Leek and potato soup just happened to be on the December list of recipes to be made for French Fridays with Dorie. I had a project, the leeks had a purpose, and all was right in my kitchen.

I have to tell you that I love leek and potato soup, I make it often and I have a very nice recipe of my own, which by the way is posted here. But, why not I thought, try Dorie Greenspan's recipe, from her cookbook "Around My French Table." Just for comparison.

Dorie's recipe contains the usual ingredients such as onions, garlic, broth, milk, and of course, leeks and potatoes. It's seasoned with thyme and sage, and Dorie recommends to add fennel or spinach to the broth, and to top the soup with croutons, or truffle oil, or grated cheese. Very nice suggestions

I started off by cleaning the leeks well. I cut off the root ends and discarded the rough green leaves. I kept the white and light green parts of the leeks. I Cut them in half lenghwise, and rinsed each half several times under cold running water. This ensured that any soil that had remained between the leaves was washed off. Leeks need a good washing because during farming, in order to keep them white, soil is mounded high up on their stalks. The result of this practice is that dirt seeps down between the leaves. Therefore, leeks always need an extra "rinse cycle."

After my leeks were chopped and ready to use, I heated up some olive oil, into which I sauteed one chopped Spanish onion, the leeks, a quarter of a fennel bulb, and a generous amount of garlic.  Then, I added all the other ingredients: potatoes, lots of thyme, sage and parsley, a hint of chopped spinach, broth, and milk. Once this milky concoction came to a boil, I lowered the heat and the vegetables cooked until they were soft, about 45 minutes. Here's what my soup looked like:  

The next step was to puree the soup.  After that was done, the soup was ready to eat.  Preparing the soup was very easy. Very little labor involved. I boosted the flavor of the original recipe by adding more garlic and herbs.      As for the topping, we had a little bacon loitering about, so I put it to use by cooking it and throwing it in the soup. That was a one time thing though. The best topping for this soup is some grated cheese and a few croutons!

Monday, December 6, 2010


Keftes in Greek means meat patty, and prasso-keftes is a meat patty into which leeks have been incorporated. The recipe I am using here makes a crunchy and juicy leek fritter, let me tell you!  It's based on one found in the book Sephardic Flavors - Jewish Cooking of the Mediterranean, which I recently purchased from

The book is an exploration of Jewish culinary history in the Mediterranean area. Joyce Goldstein, the author, tells the story of how the Sephardic Jews adapted to the cuisines of their new homelands. It's a book full of historical information and unique recipes of the Jews of Spain, Portugal, Turkey, Italy, and Greece. Myself being Greek, I focused mostly on the Greek recipes, and particularly on the one for leek fritters. These delectable meatballs are a favorite of the Sephardim, who make them in both vegetarian and meat versions.

For the most part, the Jews of Greece are Sephardim. Sephardim or Sephardic Jews are descendants of Jews who were forced out of Spain in 1492, as a result of the Spanish Inquisition. The word “Sephardim” is derived from "Sepharad," the Hebrew word for Spain. After 1492, a large number of Sephardim found refuge in the Greek city of Salonika, where they established a thriving community. Its pre-World War II Jewish population numbered 56,000, which made Salonika the largest Sephardic center in the world. Unfortunately, the Sephardim suffered greatly in the Holocaust. Only 2,000 of these Jews survived Auschwitz-Birkenau to return to Salonika. How were those people able to rebuild their lives after having survived such a tragic period of grief and destruction? It must have been a herculean task for each and every one of them to pick up one by one the pieces of their lives and to try to become whole again.

The White Tower in Salonika (formally known as Thessaloniki), near which was located one of the three Jewish quarters of the town.
My family, who are Salonika natives, had developed friendships in the Sephardic community. I remember one gentleman in particular, a bachelor, who was a close friend. He gave us one of his favorite recipes, leek fritters with meat, and we made it for him often, especially around such Jewish holidays as Passover and Rosh Hashanah. We too loved those leek fritters.  I remember them sitting on the kitchen counter, freshly cooked and aromatic. "Don't touch," my mother would say to me.  I had to wait my turn.  Adults got served first, then children.  I kept counting them as they were being plated, wondering how many would be left for me.  Through the years we unfortunately lost our recipe for leek fritters.  Weren't we lucky to find this delectable version, nestled among the pages of the cookbook "Sephardic Flavors?"

How to make leek fritters with meat:


3 pounds leeks
3/4 pound ground beef
3 slices rustic bread, crusts removed, soaked in water, and squeezed dry. (The recipe allows to substitute 2 mashed potatoes for the bread. I tried this, but to me, the fritters taste better with the bread).
2 eggs separated
3 tablespoons walnuts, ground up well in a food processor
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 cloves garlic, chopped well
2 shallots, chopped well
salt and pepper to taste
all purpose flour for dredging
canola oil for frying
lemon wedges

  • Clean the leeks well, cut off the root end and most of the green part. Cut them lenghwise and then crosswise in 1/2 inch pieces. Soak them in water to remove any left over dirt, then drain them. Put them in a pot with salted water to cover, and then simmer until the leeks are soft, about 25 minutes. Drain them very well.
  • In a bowl combine the leeks, ground beef, bread, egg yolks, walnuts, parsley, garlic and shallots. Season with salt and pepper and knead until the mixture holds together well.
  • Form them into balls about 2 inches in diameter, and then flatten them a bit.
  • Pour canola oil to a depth of 1 inch into a medium saucepan and heat the oil.
  • Meanwhile spread some flour on a plate, and in a bowl beat the egg whites until they get frothy (not stiff).
  • When the oil is hot, dip the meatballs in the flour and then in the egg whites. Add them to the oil in batches and fry them until golden, 8 to 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon transfer them to paper towels to drain.
  • Arrange them on a platter and serve them with lemon wedges.
  • Left over leek fritters can be reheated in tomato sauce. Also, the bread crumbs and flour listed in the recipe can be substituted by matzoh meal.

Sunday, November 28, 2010


I made pasta puttanesca today, a winter's day when there were lots of things to do, and no time for leisurely cooking. The word puttanesca in Italian means "something that pertains to whores," therefore pasta puttanesca is "the pasta preferred by ladies of the evening." These hardworking women, members of the oldest profession in the world, have had the honor to have this delightful dish named after them. Why it is named after them I do not know. There are many versions which tell why, and as far as I am concerned one version is as convincing as the next.  One version says that the recipe was used to lure customers with its aroma. Another says that it was a dish that could be thrown together in a moment's notice, with items found in any "busy lady's" pantry. There is a version which says that it was a go to recipe for housewives who wanted to serve a quick meal in order to move on to other things. Well, all those explanations will do for me. Pasta puttanesca is an aromatic dish, easy and quick to prepare, full of the flavors of the Mediterranean. It contains an excellent sauce to mix up with pasta.  This sauce can be prepared in the time it takes to cook the pasta. No need to use any salt whatsoever. The saltiness of this dish will come from the olives, the capers and the anchovies.


  • 1 onion chopped
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 3 anchovy fillets
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • ¼ cup pitted Kalamata olives
  • a few green olives, pitted
  • about a tablespoon capers
  • ½ cup chopped parsley
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • a 28 ounce can of crushed tomatoes
  • 1 pound linguine pasta
  • some basil, oregano, and hot pepper flakes (optional)

  • Directions:

    • Cook the pasta according to package directions. While the pasta is cooking, prepare the sauce.
    • Heat 3 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the onions to the pan and cook until they are soft, about 7 minutes. Add the garlic, the pepper flakes and half of the parsley, and cook for another minute. Add the anchovies and stir, pressing them with a cooking spoon to break them up. Add the olives and tomatoes and bring to a boil.
    • Lower the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes, then stir in the capers.
    • The sauce can also be flavored with some basil and a bit of oregano, but that's optional. Most versions of pasta puttanesca include hot pepper flakes, but I usually omit or limit the amount I use, as most of us at home are not partial to spicy foods.

    • Add the cooked pasta to the pan and mix with the sauce. Add the rest of the parsley, olive oil and basil if using. Remove from the heat and stir in the grated cheese.

    • Serve right away, and enjoy it. It's soo good.

    Friday, November 26, 2010


    It's around 11:30, Thanksgiving eve, and I am taking some time off from cooking. Just enough time to write down my recipe for fasolakia. You see, I decided that there should be very little cooking left to do tomorrow, Thanksgiving day. This way I can mingle with family, and as most of the cooking will have already be done, Thanksgiving day will unfold smoother and less hurried for us all. I'm going for simple and delicious this year. Uncomplicated recipes, easy to make, tasty to eat. OK, now I have to trot into the kitchen, do one final thing (finish cooking the fasolakia), and then I'll be ready for tomorrow. Be right back.

    This is a popular Greek recipe, very easy to make and most often enjoyed in summer when green beans come fresh from the farm. Our Thanksgiving dinner is comprised of all the traditional fare, but it also contains this recipe, to remind us of our roots! I make it with flat Italian green beans, which taste great and are similar to the varieties found in Greece. This time of year I buy the frozen kind because these green beans are not found fresh in November.


    5 tablespoons olive oil
    1 cup chopped onions
    2 or 3 cloves of garlic, chopped
    2 pounds flat Italian green beans, frozen
    1 can (28-ounces/800gr) San Marzano whole tomatoes
    salt to taste 
    1 teaspoon black pepper
    1 teaspoon dried oregano
    1 cup fresh parsley, chopped
    1 cup vegetable broth or water (plus more as needed)


    Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan. Add the onion and saute until soft, but not burned. Halfway through cooking the onions add the garlic. Add all of the other ingredients and mix well.

    The liquid should almost cover the green beans. Bring to a boil, turn the heat to low, cover and cook for about one hour, until the green beans are soft and fork - tender.

    If the liquid evaporates before cooking is finished, you will need to add just a little bit more to the pan. You can use vegetable broth or water. The end result should be to have the green beans look juicy but not floating in liquid. Serve them with the pan juices, and enjoy them. This recipe can be used as a side dish and makes enough to feed a crowd but it can be cut in half and served as a main meal for about four people. 

    I didn't make it back to my computer Thanksgiving Eve, so this entry was left to be finished and posted today, late at night, long after Thanksgiving was over. What can I say? The green beans came out really tasty. However, I can't write that all went well Thanksgiving Day. 

    My father, 86 years old and suffering from dementia, was having a difficult time of it and that sent the whole house into an uproar. So much for a smooth and unhurried Thanksgiving. It turned out to be very stressful. 

    Over and over in my mind, I think of the famous words the poet Robert Burns set down in 1785. How true they still ring today, in 2010:

    "The best laid schemes of mice and men
    Go often askew,
    And leave us nothing but grief and pain,
    For promised joy!
    Still you are blest, compared with me!

    The present only touches you:
    But oh! I backward cast my eye,
    On prospects dreary!
    And forward, though I cannot see,
    I guess and fear!"

    (excerpt from "To a Mouse," by Robert Burns, Standard English Translation)

    Wednesday, November 3, 2010


    The very first time I had a tuna sandwich I was hooked. It became my favorite lunch, favorite sandwich, favorite snack, favorite thing to order at a luncheonette... I loved it! I was in my teens, and I quickly learned how to make it: Mix canned tuna fish with mayonnaise, chopped celery, chopped onions, throw it between two slices of white bread and you're in business. Being Greek, I soon started adding lemon juice, an ingredient Greeks try their best to use in every recipe, even if it's a dessert. I experimented with different breads, sometimes I added garlic powder (don't try it), sometimes I added herbs, but I never strayed too far from the original. Until I ran into a version of this recipe on the Simply Recipes web site. It's a little different from your basic tuna salad recipe, but it's full of good tasting ingredients. I still eat the original, especially when my mother makes it, but this version of tuna salad has won me over as well. To make it, I always buy Bumble Bee tuna packed in water. Then, I add a bit of good olive oil which helps all the ingredients fuse together better. If you make it, have it on a sandwich with lettuce and tomatoes, or eat it plain with out the bread. However, if you do choose to turn it into a sandwich, use a hearty, solid kind of bread. And please, enjoy it. It is really good!  I made this for dinner today, Wednesday, November 3, 2010. It's the day after Election Day. The candidate I supported, Joe Sestak for US Senate, who was the best man for the job, lost in a close race. I was very disappointed, especially since the winner, a man known as Darth Vadar Toomey, is more right wing than Metternich ever was. So I needed the comfort of a tuna salad sandwich for dinner. This nation that I love needs some comfort too. May we somehow come out of this mess, winners all.


    2 cans (7 ounce), of tuna fish, packed in water
    1 teaspoon olive oil
    1/2 cup ricotta cheese
    3 tablespoons of mayonnaise
    1/4 or maybe even half of a purple onion, chopped finely
    3 celery stalks, chopped finely
    2 tablespoons of capers
    Juice of one lemon
    1 tablespoon minced fresh dill
    1 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
    1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard
    lettuce and sliced tomatoes, optional
    sliced bread, your favorite, lightly toasted


    Drain the tuna fish and mix all of the ingredients. Serve on toast, with lettuce or tomatoes. You can also have it plain, open faced, or in lettuce cups if you would rather forgo the bread.

    Monday, October 18, 2010


    "A New England clam chowder, made as it should be, is a dish to preach about, to chant praises and sing hymns and burn incense before. To fight for. The Battle of Bunker Hill was fought for--or on--clam chowder; part of it at least, I am sure it was. It is as American as the Stars and Stripes, as patriotic as the national Anthem. It is 'Yankee Doodle in a kettle.' "

    Yup, it sure is. I can't agree more. My favorite soup. Clams! Chowder! New England Clam Chowder! A favorite soup of the New England region, and one that New Englanders have no problem sharing with the rest of the world.

    The soup was very good.  I did some things to save time in the kitchen: I used frozen corn instead of fresh, and I bought fresh clams all ready cleaned and chopped. I can't trust myself to clean clams in their shells, because as hard as I try, I always wind up with some sand in the pot.  So forget about it.  Get ready cleaned clams, I say to myself.  In hindsight, I should have not used bacon in this recipe.  I like bacon, but I don't often buy it because it's something all of us here at home need to stay away from. So next time, no bacon.


    6 strips bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
    3 ribs celery, strings removed, cut into 1/4-inch dice
    1 cup small pearl onion, peeled
    3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
    2 cups unsalted clam juice
    4 small Yukon Gold potatoes peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
    2 dried bay leaves
    1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    6 large sprigs fresh thyme
    2 containers fresh, raw chopped clams, rinsed really well.  (they can usually be found next to the fresh crab meat).

    1 cup frozen corn
    2 cups milk
    2 tablespoons unsalted butter
    1 teaspoon salt

    Potatoes and herbs simmering in the clam broth.... and all of it smelling delicious.

    • Cook the bacon until crisp. Drain it on paper towels and and set it aside. I a stock pot heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil and add the onions.  Sauté, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, until the onions are translucent, about 7 minutes.
    • Sprinkle flour over the onions and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, about 2 minutes.
    • Add the clam juice, 1 cup water, the celery, potatoes, bay leaves, and pepper, cover and bring to a boil. Pick the thyme leaves from their stems and add both the leaves and the stems to pot. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer until the potatoes are almost fork tender, about 15 minutes.
    • Add the corn and cook 5 minutes.
    • Add the clams and cook 5 minutes.
    • Add the milk and butter and cook until the butter melts, about 5 minutes.
    • Remove the bay leaves and thyme stems, season with salt and pepper, garnish with bacon pieces and serve.

    Bon appetit!  ( My recipe is based on one from

    Thursday, October 14, 2010


    The Daring Cooks hostess for October 2010 is Lori of Lori’s Lipsmacking Goodness. Lorie has challenged The Daring Cooks to make stuffed grape leaves. I chose to make a recipe of stuffed grape leaves with a rice filling, and a recipe of trout stuffed with rice, wrapped in grape leaves and grilled.

    Grape Leaves Stuffed with Rice

    Grape leaves cooked with some type of stuffing have been around since antiquity. I guess you could say they were the first sandwich that was invented. I have been eating them and loving them since I was a child, and this is the recipe that we've been making at home since my grandmother's time - minus the raisins. If you add the raisins you will get grape leaves that are sweeter in taste.
    In Greek homes grape leaves with rice are served cold, usually as a first course or as part of an appetizer menu.
    It's always nice to have fresh grape leaves on hand, but they are a luxury item here in the USA, not readily available. The solution is to get grape leaves in a jar.  They are preserved in a brine solution, and need to be thoroughly rinsed in order remove excess salt. When I buy preserved grape leaves I always have my fingers crossed. Sometimes they'll be too tough with lots of veins, sometimes too small, sometimes torn. Of course, sometimes I am lucky and they are just right. Ideally, grape leaves should melt in one's mouth as they are being eaten. If they don't, that means they were too tough prior to cooking. One solution for softening them is to cook them in boiling water for about 20 to 30 minutes before stuffing them.  If you like making stuffed grape leaves, experiment with different brands and methods until you find the one that works for you. Happy cooking!


    1 jar preserved grape leaves, drained
    1 cup olive oil
    2 large onions, chopped
    3 cloves of garlic, chopped
    1 bunch green onions, chopped
    Salt and pepper to taste
    2 cups chicken broth
    1 cup long grain rice
    Juice of 2
    2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
    3 tablespoons dill, chopped
    1 teaspoon mint, chopped
    2 tablespoons raisins, chopped (optional)
    1 small jar pine nuts
    1 cup water

    • Carefully separate the grape leaves, place them in a large bowl and pour boiling water over them to cover. Let the leaves soak for an hour, and change the water a couple of times.  Drain and rinse.  This is done to excess salt. Cut off the stems and allow the leaves to dry.  

    • In a large saucepan, heat 1/2 cup of the olive oil, add the onions, garlic, salt and pepper, and cook over medium heat until the onions are translucent, about 10 minutes.
    • Add 1 cup of the chicken broth and stir in the rice and green onions. Cover, reduce the heat to low and cook the rice until the broth is absorbed, about 10 minutes or so. The rice will not cook all the way, but will finish cooking inside the grape leaves. In this way the end product will not have a mushy filling. Also, this method gives the rice a chance to expand inside the grape leaf, thus making a firmer and well filled little bundle.

    • Transfer to a large bowl, and mix in the juice of one lemon, parsley, dill, mint, raisins, pine nuts, and salt and pepper to taste.

    I love this rice... In addition to using it as a stuffing one can make it to use as a side dish. It tastes marvelous on its own.
    • Place one leaf on a flat surface, vein side up, shiny side down. Place a rounded teaspoon of filling in the center of the leaf, near the stem edge. Fold the stem end over the filling, then fold both sides toward the middle, and then roll the leaf with the stuffing to form a nice bundle. You should now have a stuffed grape leaf. Repeat with the remaining leaves and filling.
    • Line the bottom of a heavy saucepan with leftover or torn grape leaves. You can also add any stems that are left over from the herbs used in the recipe. Arrange the bundles seam side down, packing them close together. Layer more bundles on top, keeping the same layering pattern so that the cooking liquid can surround all of them.

    • Combine the remaining 1/2 cup olive oil, the rest of the chicken broth and the lemon juice. Pour over the stuffed grape leaves. The liquid should just about cover the grape leaves. Have a cup of water handy to use if more liquid is needed before the cooking time is up. You don't want your bundles to dry up, but you also don't want them swimming in liquid.
    • To keep the bundles from floating around in the liquid place a heatproof plate on top of them to weigh them down.

        • Cover the pan and simmer over low heat for about one hour, or until the  leaves are tender and most of the liquid is absorbed.
        • Cool the grape leaves the pan, and then chill. Grape leaves stuffed with rice are served cold.

        Whole Fish Stuffed in Grape Leaves

        Fish wrapped in grape leaves is a popular summer dish in Greece, were it's grilled over a fire. It tastes good. Trust me. What happens during grilling is that the grape leaves and the skin of the fish char together to form a distinctive, crunchy and delicious outer layer. In addition, the grape leaves keep the fish nice and moist.
        I used trout to make this recipe just because it looked good at the fish store.  It was fresh, well cleaned, and it was on sale. However, many other types of fish can be used. Try it with any fish that grills nicely. Especially delicious when using this method are small fish such as red mullet or mackerel. If using small fish, it's not necessary to stuff them. If you still want to stuff the smaller fish, you can use the recipe included here, but omit the rice.

        • 2 pounds of trout (two fish), cleaned of fish guts and bones
        • about 16 preserved grape leaves (you may need more-it depends both on the size of the leaves and the size of the fish), drained and rinsed.
        • 1 cup cooked rice
        • Juice and zest of one lemon
        • salt and pepper to taste
        • olive oil
        • 1 shallot chopped
        • 1 clove of garlic, chopped
        • 2 scallions, chopped
        • 1 tablespoon dill, chopped
        • some fennel fronds
        • Rinse the fish inside and out and pat dry with paper towels.
        • Cook the rice according to package directions. Do not overcook.
        • Saute the scallion, green onions and garlic in some olive oil and add to the rice. Add the lemon zest and parsley, season with salt and pepper and mix well.
        • Sprinkle some olive oil and lemon juice in the cavity of the fish. Season with salt and pepper.
        • Spoon the rice mixture into the cavity of each fish. You'll probably have some rice left over, and that's always good because you can snack on that later.

        • Fold the fish closed, and sprinkle it again with olive oil and lemon.
        • Use about 8 grape leaves per fish. Make sure they are nice and dry from being rinsed, then lay them on your work surface, slightly overlapping. Set one of the trout on top and wrap the leaves up and over the fish. Lay another leaf or two on top of the trout to fully encase it. Tie a few pieces of kitchen string around the fish to secure it. Repeat with the other fish.

        • Brush the grill with oil and cook the fish until its flesh appears opaque (make a small slit through the leaves to check), about 6 minutes on each side.
        • I chose to serve the trout on a bed of fennel fronds, and that looked good and gave off a nice anise aroma.