Last week we were invited to celebrate Tsiknopempti which is the equivalent to Fat Tuesday, but Greeks celebrate by tsiknisma which means barbecuing a piece of meat so you can literally smell it all over the neighborhood. It signifies the beginning of mardi gras but also the fact that lent will start and meat will not be eaten for 40 days.
Well our hosts had various trees in their backyard and one of them had this large, uneven fruit that kind of looked like an ugly lemon. So we took a few home. It turns out this is citron, a fruit that has a wonderful aroma but bitter. Read more »
These sesame bars known as pasteli in Greek are the original power bars. They actually go back to antiquity, the ancient Greeks had a similar recipe that included a variety of nuts and honey. Today you can pretty much find pasteli anywhere in Greece. When I’m out and am looking for something quick I’ll stop by a periptero (kiosks that are everywhere) and that is what I’ll get. It is basically honey and sesame seeds. You can also find other types of pasteli that include other nuts such as pistachios. Read more »
The combination of cheese and fruit is a classic one and common in Greece as well. The most popular combinations being feta cheese with watermelon or cantaloupe but also another lesser known combo: Graviera Cheese and figs.
Graviera is a Greek yellow semi-hard cheese. Cretan graviera is very popular and made from sheep’s milk, the Naxos (island) graviera also well-known is made mostly from cow’s milk and is a little sweeter.
This is a very popular cheese and is the next favorite of Greeks after feta. My mom always cuts some generous pieces and puts them on a small plate for every meal. We end up eating all the pieces even before we sit down, it is so addictive… Read more »
I’ve been involved in a few projects lately and one of them was discussing the Greek Diet and Greek island cooking on a cruise.
Yes this was a fun job because we also were able to take a 4 day cruise on the Greek islands. While I had travelled to most of these islands, visiting them in March provided a different perspective compared to the summer months. Islands such as Mykonos and Santorini were serene and well . .. quiet. It was a nice change and you really see the beauty of the island and the people. Whether that is a simple cafe in Mykonos or the UNESCO Heritage site on the island of Rhodes; one of the best preserved Medieval towns, or a tiny church on the edge the town on Patmos or the extreme scenery of Santorini. Read more »
I have to say these little pies or pites are delicious. They are one of the most popular dishes in Crete. Sfakia is a remote and mountainous area in Crete where this dish originates from. Basically they are pieces of dough that have cheese in them, but the cheese is not a filling, but rather integrated in the dough through kneading.
The cheese used is a fresh cheese, some recipes suggest anthotiro others fresh mitzithra (which is what I used here) and others a local Cretan cheese known as pihtogalo. A substitute would be ricotta cheese, if you are not able to find the above cheeses. In Peloponissos we have a different type “pita” that has feta cheese instead of a soft sweet cheese. Read more »
I usually make my mom’s recipe for Vasilopita New Year’s Day (or Eve). In case you are not familiar with this tradition, Greeks make a cake with a coin hidden in it, that is cut on New Year’s Day or New Year’s Eve. Each person present is provided a piece, and he or she that has the coin in their piece is promised good luck for the rest of the year. You can check this post for another Vasilopita recipe and a little bit more about the tradition.
This year I wanted to make a lemon flavored Vasilopita (instead of orange) with olive oil instead of butter. Read more »
I’ve mentioned this before, but phyllo is so versatile and you should always have some in your kitchen. Here in Greece we actually have fresh phyllo (not frozen) available at the super market which makes it even easier to make your own Greek pies such as spanakopita. I do like to use it for sweets as well, in the place of a regular crust. It has no fat (although I noticed that in the US many brands have added fat in them) and only contain flour and cornstarch, providing a lighter version. Even when you brush your oil in between layers, you have control of how much you use and what kind of fat you add. Read more »
I really like fruit tarts even though they are not common in Greek cuisine. In the traditional Greek diet, fruit is usually consumed fresh, dried or sweetened (served in small amounts) and sometimes in a cake. But once in a while I want something with a crust. The problem is that with the typical fruit pie or tart, there is so much butter and sugar and even cream that any benefits of the fruit are cancelled out. So, for this recipe, I wanted to combine the goodness of fruit with tastiness of a crust but in a form that is fairly healthy. Read more »
These are not your typical morning muffins. Yes, you would think that these ingredients do not really go together, but they do! Balsamic vinegar highlights the flavor of strawberries. Some chefs actually say that strawberries are interchangeable with tomatoes because they share many flavor components. No wonder strawberries work great in salads. And what about all those strawberry vinaigrettes? Now I originally had made the strawberries with the balsamic and sugar to be consumed as is, but my kids were not that interested and I was worried that all these nice strawberries would go to waste. So I made these cupcakes. Read more »