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Sunday, June 19, 2011


I find that most anything you cook in fillo is yummy and spinach pie is no exception. I love my Greek heritage and the foods. Greek food is very healthy; using lots of greens, olive oil, lemon, garlic, fish, yogurt, nuts, and honey (Not necessarily all at once!). What's not to love. So, last night I brought the Melomakarona cookies and a large pan of Spanikopita to the Opera for my colleagues and friends. Sweet and savory.
I looked in my pantry to see what greens I had, thankfully I had enough spinach and green onions for the dish.
Fresh spinach, green onions, dill, mint, and a leek.
First step is to rinse to clean all your greens and herbs.
1 to 2 lbs spinach
2 to 3 bunches of green onions - chopped
a handful of fresh dill, parsley and mint - finely chopped
(NOTE: there is NO garlic in spanikopita!)
chopped ingredients ready to be sauteed in olive oil
In a large pot heat up some good quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil and saute onions over a high heat. (tonight I only had two bunches of green onions so for fun I decided added a leek (which was in my fridge.) Until slightly translucent.

onions Don't overcook!
Then add the spinach a bunch at a time and use a wooden spoon to mix.
Cook just enough to wilt but maintain that green color.
Cooked just right
Remove from stove and put in a colander to drain. It is important that you drain fluids so the spanikopita is not watery. I let it sit for at least an hour and then squeeze with the back of a wooden spoon to get out anymore liquid.
Next step is the cheese.
Fillo and cheese filling
You will need:
One box of fillo (1 lb), I like the Athens fillo dough and I try to make sure it's fresh. I take it out of the refrigerator a couple of hours before I'm going to use it.
I'm not always accurate about measurements, I tend to put a large spoonful of this and that.
Around a 1/2 lb feta cheese, crumbled - I like Valbreso french feta because it's creamy and flavorful, Trader Joes has a good french feta as well.
1/2 cup grated kaseri - if you don't have that use something like fontinella.
2 eggs - I am so lucky to have a friend like Kazi, who has chickens that produce amazingly tasty golden yolked eggs. She feeds them very well. I know my food taste better when I use those eggs.
1 cup cottage cheese
1/2 cup or more ricotta cheese
Mixed cheeses and eggs together.
Then add to drained spinach mixture.
Before the blessed union.
And then it will look like this. Creamy and delicious.
Spinach and cheese. YUM
pre-heat over to 350
First melt one quarter pound butter in a small saucepan.
just enough butter
Then lightly spray a large 13 x 9 pan with olive oil
Open the fillo, carefully because it's delicate. Unroll and leave on top the wax paper. Keep a slightly damp towel to make sure it doesn't dry out. You will use both rolls in box. I use half of the fillo on the bottom and half for the top.
fillo ready to be layered in the pan.
drip some olive oil in bottom of the pan and brush to cover. Layer a few sheets of fillo over the sides and on the bottom - like so.
layering the fillo
I alternate butter and olive oil - just make sure you have enough butter to brush the top. four to six sheets - brush with oil. Use one roll for bottom. Now add the spinach mixture.
spinach in pan
spread evenly and then pull the sides over on top and layer the rest of the fillo on the top, brushing oil and butter. Always end with butter - it helps to brown the top.
Once it's ready - use a very sharp knife and score lengthwise. I slice all the way to the bottom and it should look like this.

It is ready for the oven. Bake for roughly 40 minutes or until golden brown on top. It should be flaky. I use my convection bake for a quicker time and it melts the ingredients wonderfully. I'll do 15 to 20 minutes regular and then another 15 minutes on the convection.
Baking at 350

Friday, June 17, 2011


(From May 2010)
Tonight I am bringing some of my Greek cuisine to the Opera to share with my friends and colleagues. Dress rehearsals for the Ring tend to be long and taxing so there is nothing better than to enjoy some tasty treats in the lounge which not only invigorates us but also inspires wonderful fellowship.

Melomakarona Cookies (Honey Walnut Stuffed Cookies) are a favorite so I am going to give you a sneak peek into how I make these delicacies.
First you must make a delicious Spicy Honey Syrup:
1 cup honey 2 cinnamon sticks
1 cup sugar 3 whole clove
1 cup water Orange zest - more like big strips
In a small saucepan bring all ingredients to a boil and cook on medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes. Set aside.
Spiced honey syrup
Pre-heat your oven to 350
The next step is making the stuffing:
1 1/2 to 2 cups walnut bits
2 tablespoons honey
1 tsp vanilla or vanilla paste
1/2 tsp cinnamon
Put ingredients in food processor and grind until it has a fine texture.
Dough and Walnut Stuffing
Cookie dough:
4 1/2 to 5 cups flour
2 tsp gr. cinnamon
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp gr. clove
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
sift these ingredients together into a large bowl

Wet ingredients:
1 1/2 cup good quality LIGHT olive oil
3/4 cup sugar
Juice of one large orange
1 tbsp orange zest
1/4 cup cognac or Grand Marnier
Beat oil and sugar together for 10 minutes until you get a creamy texture. Add orange juice, zest and cognac and beat for another 5 or 6 minutes. Add flour mixture into liquid slowly and mix together until a soft dough forms. Knead, adding more flour if necessary, until dough is soft but not stiff.
Now for the fun part:
Shape Dough 1 1/2 to 2 tbsp dough into a large round in the palm of your hand, put a small spoonful of the walnut stuffing and wrap dough around it.
Shape into a round cylinder and place on greased cookie sheet.
I like to add a walnut half for decoration on top, press down.
Bake in oven for 25 to 30 minutes until golden.
Remove from Oven and cool on a rack.
I drizzle the honey syrup over them in a large pan and let it soak up into the cookies. It makes them moist morsels of deliciousness.
Serve at room temperature on a platter and Voila!

Monday, June 13, 2011


Stuffed Grapeleaves - Dolmas

I have a passion for cooking, especially greek food. It is part of my heritage and I developed a love for the food at a young age during the many gatherings with my mom's greek friends and their families. It was my hope that my own children would develop a taste for those wonderful dishes too!

My son likes a great variety of food from all countries and has been learning to cook a few greek dishes. After a conversation we had recently I decided to add this recipe to my blog for him and hopefully a few friends will find this useful too. Pictures are included to show all the steps.


the ingredients!

1 to 1 1/2 lean ground meat ( beef, lamb, veal, chicken, or turkey )

1 cup uncooked rice ( my mom and I both prefer Uncle Ben's converted rice.)

1 large onion

fresh mint, parsley and dill ( dried will work in a pinch but remember, fresh always tastes better!)

1 or 2 eggs to bind

olive oil (you need to add some fat back into the meat, I like olive oil because it's healthy)

salt and pepper to taste

chicken broth

3 to 5 lemons - depending on the size - I love the lemon taste!

1 jar grapeleaves in brine - drained and rinsed

If you have fresh ones - steam until tender enough to use.

The Mixture:

In a large bowl, add the ground meat, diced onion, chopped fresh herbs, rice, olive oil, eggs, and salt and pepper

dicing the onion
fresh herbs

Using your hands mix all the ingredients together until they are incorporated together.

The final mix


This is the tricky part: Find a flat plate to lay the grapeleaves and it might take a little practice to wrap them around the meat. Just remember if they are too loose, they will fall apart in the pot.


The grape-leaf should be flat stem side up. Remove the stem.

Next - get a tablespoon of the meat mixture, roll into a ball and place in the middle to lower third of the leaf.

Start by bringing up the bottom of the leaf and draping it over the meat. Like so.

Then fold over the sides firmly - it should look like this.

Roll up into a neat package.

Voila! A dolma

Cooking them:

Put them in a large pot, try to line them up, so the dolma will not fall apart while cooking.

Pour in the chicken broth until they are covered, the rice will absorb the liquid I would say almost an inch above the dolmas.

Put on the stove and heat over medium heat - it will boil, turn the heat down and let cook for 45 minutes to an hour. Mostly to make sure the meat and rice are cooked. Add the fresh lemon juice while it begins to cook.

This is how you make delicious homestyle Dolmas!


the beautiful cookies

Today I am going to share with you a recipe for the most perfect cookie or biscuit ever. These are traditionally easter cookies served along side the dark red eggs. My mom, we refer to her as Yia-yia, has made these cookies for as long as I can remember and they appeal to people of all ages, a mildly sweet crisp cookie that are an excellent compliment with tea, coffee or milk. You can dunk them without fear of loosing it in hot liquid. They travel very well too!

Yia-yia comes to visit every so often and when she does, we bake a huge batch of these. It seems this is the only way to do it. Store them in a dry place and they will last for a while - though we seem to go through them.



1 5 lb. bag all-purpose flour

2 1/2 to 3 cups sugar

1 lb. butter (room temperature)

1 dozen eggs (room temperature)

12 teaspoons baking powder or 4 tbsp. (I don't mess with my mom's logic, she says 12 tsp. I obey)

1 tsp baking soda

1 tbsp vanilla

1 tsp sea salt


You will need a large mixer and then a very big bowl ( I usually use one of my big stainless steel soup pots )

large mixer

In the large mixer - cream the butter and sugar together until you get a creamy texture. Once this is done add the eggs one or two at a time and incorporate them into the butter mixture. ( I crack the eggs into a large measuring cup first. ) Add the vanilla, mix, then add the salt, baking powder and baking soda and mix well. I know it sounds wierd but it works.

Pour about half of the bag of flour into a large bowl or pot and make a well in the center. Into this well you are going to add the wet ingredients and begin mixing with your hands. Hands are the best utensils for mixing this dough.

the dough

As soon as the dry ingredients absorb the wet add more flour until you have a non sticky dough. NOT dry or flaky OR wet and sticky - it should be like play-dough.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees and make sure the rack is in the middle of the oven.

Ready to Roll!

Take about 1 to 2 tablespoons of dough and roll into a rope, like so.

Then make a coil. Just in half and twist.

line them up on a large baking sheet and bake them for 20 to 25 minutes, until they come out slightly red as Yia-yia says.

Take them out and let them cool before storing them in your cookie jar.

A perfect snack for anytime in the day. Enjoy!