Koulouria (Greek Easter Cookies)

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Greek Easter is a big deal, people. There is so much food prepared for Easter that it will probably take us 10 years to cover it all. Since we have to dive in somewhere, let’s start with Koulouria, shall we?

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Koulouria are traditional Greek Easter cookies. When our family makes Koulouria, they really go all in. All hands are required on deck because the original recipe is massive.  10 eggs. 15 cups of flour. 15 dozen cookies. Since most people don’t need to make enough Koulouria to feed an army, we halved all of the ingredients in the recipe below to make a more reasonable amount.

Another challenge with this recipe is how things were measured.  For example, this is how Mom usually measures sugar when she makes koulouria.

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I’m not kidding. Luckily for you, we took the time to re-measure everything using standard measuring cups and measuring spoons. You’re welcome.

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Finally, Koulouria call for two ingredients that can’t be found in American supermakets: baker’s ammonia and powdered vanilla. Both can be found at your local Greek market or can be purchased online here and here.

Okay, are you ready?

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Separate eggs, placing whites in a medium mixing bowl and yolks in a large mixing bowl.

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Add salt to egg whites and beat until soft peaks form. (Hi Theia Toula!) Set aside.

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Add sugar to egg yolks and beat very well. At first it will look like the consistency of scrambled eggs, but after about 5 minutes it will start to look more creamy and become slightly lighter in color.

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Continue beating and add oil, followed by shortening, and baker’s ammonia.

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Add baking soda to warmed milk and pour into batter. Add vanilla and mix well.

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Fold reserved whites into batter.

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Add flour to batter a little at a time and combine well. Use your hands or a stand mixer with hook attachment.

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Beat 2 egg yolks with a little water in a small bowl.

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Lightly oil your work surface.  Grab about 1 cup of dough and roll it out into a log shape. Cut into 1 inch pieces.

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Roll each piece out into a small “rope” and shape into circles or twists.

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Place on cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Brush with egg yolk. Greek coffee, anyone?

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Bake in lower third of the oven for about 10 minutes, then move to the top third of the oven for 10 more minutes.

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Cookies are done when they are golden brown. Happy Easter everyone!

Koulouria (makes about 7 dozen)

Source: Athena Merianos & Toula Costopoulos

5 eggs, plus 2 egg yolks for brushing on cookies before baking

1/8  teaspoon salt

1.5 cup sugar

3/4 cup warmed milk

1/3 cup shortening

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1.5 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baker’s ammonia

1/4 teaspoon powdered vanilla

7.5 cups sifted flour (sift first, then measure)

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Separate eggs, placing whites in a medium bowl and yolks in a large mixing bowl. Add salt to egg whites and beat until soft peaks form. Set aside.

Add flour and baking powder in medium bowl and set aside.

Add sugar to yolks and beat very well, for at least 5 minutes or until creamy and slightly lighter in color.  Continue beating and add oil, followed by shortening, and baker’s ammonia. Add baking soda to warmed milk and pour into batter. Add vanilla and mix well.

Fold reserved whites into batter.  Add flour to batter a little at a time and combine well. Use your hands or a stand mixer with hook attachment.

Beat 2 egg yolks with a little water in a small bowl.

Lightly oil your work surface.  Grab about 1 cup’s worth of dough and roll it out into a log shape. Cut into about 1 inch pieces.  Roll each piece out into a small “rope” and shape into circles or twists. Place on cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Brush with egg yolk.  Bake in lower third of the over for about 10 minutes, then move to the top third of the oven for 10 more minutes.  Cookies are done when they are golden brown.

© kouzina cousins. April 2014.

Lagana

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Don’t you want a bite of that right now? Lagana is basically the Greek version of focaccia — both are flat breads baked with olive oil. Focaccia is usually soft throughout but lagana has a crunchy crust with a soft center. Lagana was a special treat in our house when we were growing up. Yiayia baked bread almost every week, and if we were lucky she would save some of the dough to make a pan of lagana that would be devoured in minutes. It is insanely good, especially if you use high quality olive oil. We are lucky to receive a steady supply of amazing olive oil from our family’s village of Krokees, and that is what we used here. To make lagana, follow the basic instructions for Yiayia’s Bread. We have adjusted the ingredients in the recipe below to make enough dough for one pan of lagana.  If you don’t have the time, energy or desire to make your own dough you could use ready-made pizza dough. It won’t be as delicious as the homemade version, but it will still taste pretty great.

DSC_0140_2Coat a shallow pan with about 1 tablespoon of olive oil.

DSC_0145_2Add dough to the pan and stretch it gently with your hands…

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DSC_0153_2Score the dough before baking, drizzle with about 1 tablespoon of olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt or kosher salt.  Cover and let rise for about 30 minutes. Poke a hole in each square with a toothpick and place in a COLD oven. Set the oven to 450. When the oven reaches 450 continue baking the lagana for about 25 minutes or until it is golden brown.

DSC_0188_2Slice and enjoy.  Trust us, it won’t last long.

Lagana makes 1 large lagana or about 35 square pieces
Source: Athena Merianos and Toula Costopoulos
This is the same basic recipe as YiaYia’s Bread, but adjusted to make a smaller amount of dough.  This will make one large lagana. You could also use ready-made pizza dough.
5 cups unbleached white flour

1 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 teaspoon yeast
2 cups warm water
1/2 cup water
2 T good quality olive oil
3/4 teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt

Follow the instructions for YiaYia’s Bread found here. After the dough has risen twice (or if you are using ready-made pizza dough) proceed with the instructions below.

Spread about 1 T of olive oil onto the bottom of a 12×17 pan. You could use a jelly roll pan or other shallow baking pan with sides. Place the dough in the center of the pan and use your hands to gently and evenly spread the dough out to the sides of the pan. Score the dough (cut lightly, not all the way through) into squares .

Drizzle the top of the dough with olive oil and spread the oil over the dough with your hands. Sprinkle the dough with sea salt or kosher salt to taste. Cover the prepared dough with plastic wrap followed by a clean towel and let sit for approximately 30 minutes so the dough can rise one more time.

Poke each square with a toothpick. Set your oven to 450 and place the prepared pan into the cold oven. Do NOT preheat the oven. When the oven temperature reaches 450, bake for an additional 25 minutes or until bread is golden brown.

© kouzina cousins. 2014.

 

 

Lentil Soup (Fakes)

Braggy moment:  A huge thank you to Felicity Swaffer of ‘Back to the Drawing Board for naming kouzina cousins one of the 10 Best Greek Food Bloggers! We are honored to be in such great company! Be sure to check out Felicity’s blog (www.backtothedrawingboard.me) where she chronicles her adventures adjusting to living a simple life in Greece. [end braggy moment]

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Given the frigid temps we’ve been dealing with in the Northeast it’s hard to believe that lent started last week and Easter is around the corner. During lent, Greek Orthodox Christians practice varying degrees of “fasting”. No, not a trendy juice fast. In the Greek church, fasting means abstaining from all animal products: meat, dairy, eggs, and most fish. Some fast for the entire 40 day lenten period, some only on Wednesdays and Fridays, others just during Holy Week. In our house lent meant peanut butter sandwiches in our lunch boxes and plenty of Lentil Soup. Luckily this soup is delicious, especially with a hunk of fresh homemade bread on the side. As an added bonus, using the Greek word for this soup – “fakes” (fah-KESS) – lets you feel like you are getting away with swearing at the dinner table. :)

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Lentil Soup (Fakes) Serves 6-8

Source: Athena Merianos via Effie Eraklis

1 lb. bag dry lentils

9 cups of water

1 large onion, diced

1 carrot, diced (optional)

2-3 garlic cloves, diced

2-3 bay leaves

1 TBLS cumin

1 6 oz. can tomato sauce

1/4 cup olive oil

Salt and pepper (to taste, some people leave it out completely)

Red wine vinegar (for serving)

Pick through the dry lentils to remove any small pebbles or discolored beans. Add the lentils to a large pot with about 9 cups of water (the water should be about four times the height of the lentils)*.   Add the onion, carrot (if using), garlic and bay leaves.  SLOWLY bring to a boil and then reduce heat to a rapid simmer and cook, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Be sure not to bring to a boil too quickly or simmer at too high a heat because that will cause the lentils to pop open.

Add tomato sauce, cumin, salt & pepper (if using) and cook for 15 minutes more. Add olive oil and cook for an additional 15 minutes or until beans are soft. Adjust seasoning to suit taste. Total cooking time is one hour.

Once the soup is served, each person can (and should!) add a splash or two of red wine vinegar to his/her bowl. The vinegar really brings this soup alive, but too much can be overpowering. As Thea Athenoula said when she was teaching me how to make this ‘you can always put more, but you can’t take it out if you put too much…ok?’.

*Feel free to adjust the water according to your preference. More water will make it soupier, less water will make it thicker. You may want to keep a small pot or kettle of water boiling on the side. That way if the beans have absorbed a lot of water and are still hard, or the soup is looking too thick, you can adjust by adding a bit of hot water.

 Serving suggestions: As we mentioned above, this soup is perfect with a great crusty bread for dipping.  Try it with some feta sprinkled on top – so good! Also, although it’s intended as a hot soup, cold leftovers are delicious.

Photos: Effie Eraklis

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YiaYia’s Bread

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We had the most wonderful yiayia (grandmother) you could imagine.  She was sweet and fun, and was always ready to give family, friends, and strangers a hug and a smile…and bread. Yiayia made this amazing bread, by hand, every week.  Yiayia’s bread was on our table at every meal and while it always tasted good, to eat it fresh out of the oven was complete joy.  Our mother and aunt still make this bread a couple of times a month, and took the time to teach us the recipe, but to us this will always be yiayia’s bread. She was a special lady, and this is her famous bread.

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Combine yeast and 2 cups warm water and set aside to allow yeast to activate.

 

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Sift white and wheat flour into a large bowl to aerate the flour. After you sift the wheat flour there may be larger wheat husks left behind in the sifter. Add those into the bowl, too. Add salt and combine with your hands.

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Make a well in the center and add oil. Stir reserved yeast and water to combine and add to the well.

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Knead the dough until it is sticky and tough and pulls away from the bowl. Fill a large bowl with 3-4 cups of warm water. Wet your hands in the warm water and continue to knead the dough, repeating this process (wet hands, knead) until the dough has softened up a bit, the sides of the bowl are clean, and excess water has been absorbed.

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Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and blankets to keep warm and let the dough rise for 2 hours, or until the dough has doubled in size and springs back when you press on it.

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Knead dough again (about 5 or 10 punches), re-cover with plastic and blankets, and let it rest about 30 minutes or until it puffs back up to double original size.

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Shape into free form loaves or use oiled loaf pans.  Use a knife to poke a few holes in the top of each loaf before placing them in the oven.

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Bake at 350 degrees for about 1 hour or until the bread is golden brown and makes a hollow sound when you knock on it.  Let cool for at least 30 minutes. Slice. Devour.

Bread (makes 5-6 loaves of bread)

5 pounds of unbleached white flour
4 cups Whole Wheat Flour (we used Hodgson Mill Old Fashioned)
2 packets of dry yeast
3/4 tablespoon salt
1/4 cup olive oil
5-6 cups warm water, separated
1 T olive oil
Combine yeast and 2 cups warm water in a small bowl and set aside to allow yeast to activate.
Sift white and wheat flour into large bowl to aerate the flour.  After you sift the wheat flour there may be larger wheat husks left behind in the sifter.  Add those into the bowl, too. Add salt and combine with your hands.  Make a well in the center and add oil.  Stir the yeast and water that you set aside earlier and add this to the well. Knead the dough until it is sticky and tough and pulls away from the bowl.  Fill a large bowl with 3-4 cups of warm water. Wet your hands in the warm water and continue to knead the dough, repeating this process (wet hands, knead) until the dough has softened up a bit, the sides of the bowl are clean, and excess water has been absorbed. (You should use up most or all of the 3-4 cups of warm water during this process.) Cover the dough with plastic wrap and then with blankets to keep it warm.  Let the dough rise for 2 hours or until it has doubled in size and springs back when you press on it. Knead dough again (4-5 punches), re-cover with plastic wrap and blankets, and let it rest about 30 minutes or until it puffs back up to double the original size. Shape into free form loaves and place on a cookie sheet, or use oiled loaf pans. Bake at 350 degrees for about 1 hour or until the loaves are golden brown and sound hollow when you knock on them.

Melomacarouna

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Melomacarouna are a popular Greek cookie often enjoyed at Christmas.  They are crumbly spice cookies that have been soaked in warm honey and then sprinkled with finely chopped walnuts. The recipe for this cookie is the perfect example of why we started this project to document family recipes.  This is what my mother’s recipe for Melomacarouna looks like:

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Thanks to six years of Greek school, I can decipher most of this.  There are lots of good things here, actually. Real measurements in “κούπες” (cups),  “κουταλιές της σούπας” (tablespoons) and “κουταλιτσες” (teaspoons).  You can see she has adjusted the recipe over the years, eliminating eggs and honey from the cookie dough and adding a bit more sugar. Some of the measurements are a little fuzzy, like the lines about “λίγη” (a little) cinnamon and clove, but nothing too difficult to overcome.  That is what I thought, until I flipped the notecard over and realized there are no instructions about what to do with the ingredients, and then further realized there is no mention of flour AT ALL.  When I asked my Mom how much flour to use she said “όσο παίρνει” (as much as it takes).  Umm, okay…obviously we had some work to do here. She still scoffs at our need to measure things, but I think she’s getting used to it. Here’s what I learned (exact measurements are listed in detail in the full recipe):

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To start with you will need: flour, vegetable oil, shortening, orange juice, cognac, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves and sugar.  Combine the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and cloves in a medium bowl and set aside.

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In a large bowl combine the oil, shortening, orange juice, baking soda, sugar and cognac and beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until combined. I love this giant stainless steel bowl. Does every Greek mother have a few of these?  They always cook in such large quantities that normal sized mixing bowls just don’t cut it.

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Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients a little at a time.  After adding about 3/4 of the flour mixture you will need to use your hands because the dough will become too thick for the mixer. If you cut this recipe in half you might be able to use a stand mixer.  And you will still have a lot of cookies. :)

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Form cookies by taking about 1 tablespoon of dough and rolling it between your hands into an elongated oval like the ones in the photo above (lower left). Gently run the tines of a fork across the top of each raw cookie  - don’t press down on the dough as you don’t want to flatten the cookies too much.
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Bake cookies in the lower half of the oven for 15 minutes or until just starting to brown, then move the cookie sheet to the top half of the oven and cook for 15 minutes more. In this picture the cookies on the top rack have baked for 15 minutes and have just been moved up to continue cooking.  The cookies on the bottom rack have just been placed in the oven.
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The cookies are done when they are a golden amber color. Let the cookies cool completely before moving on to the next step.

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Bring honey and water to a boil over high heat. Turn the heat off and skim off any white foam that may have formed on the surface of the honey.

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Drop 5 or 6 cookies into the warmed honey. The cookies will float to the top.  Turn the cookies over gently to be sure the honey is soaked in on all sides. After about 1 minute, remove the cookies from the honey using a slotted spoon. Repeat until all cookies are drenched in honey.

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Sprinkle with chopped walnuts. Let cool before serving.

Melomacarouna  (Spice cookies dipped in honey)

Source: Athena Merianos and Toula Costopoulos

Makes about 6 dozen cookies

2 cups vegetable oil
3 tablespoons Crisco shortening
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup orange juice
1.5 teaspoons baking soda
3 tablespoons of Metaxa (cognac)
7.5 cups flour
1.5 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
3 cups honey
1/2 cup water
2 cups finely chopped walnuts
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a medium sized bowl combine flour, baking powder, cinnamon and cloves and set aside.
In a large bowl combine oil, shortening, orange juice, baking soda, sugar and cognac and beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until combined.
Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients a bit at a time.  After adding about 3/4 of the dry ingredients you will need to use your hands because the dough will become too thick for the mixer.
Line a few baking sheets with parchment paper.
Take about 1 T of dough and roll it between your hands until it forms an elongated oval shape.
Gently run tines of a fork across the top of each raw cookie  - don’t press down on the cookie as you don’t want to flatten it.
Bake cookies in the lower half of the oven for 15 minutes or until just starting to brown, then move the cookie sheet to the top half of the oven and cook for 15 minutes more. The cookies are done when they are a golden amber color. Let the cookies cool completely before moving on to the next step.  The cookies can be made ahead up until this point and stored in an airtight container for up to 2 months (that is not a typo – Greek cookies have a crazy long shelf life).
Combine the honey and the water in a medium sized saucepan over high heat and bring to a boil.  Turn off the heat and remove any white foam that may have formed on the surface of the honey.  Drop 4 or 5 cookies into the warmed honey. The cookies will float to the top.  Turn the cookies over gently to be sure the honey is soaked in on all sides. After about 1 minute, remove the cookies from the honey using a slotted spoon. Repeat until all cookies are soaked in honey. After the first couple of batches, you may need to turn the heat on low to keep the honey warm during this process.
Sprinkle with finely chopped walnuts. Serve at room temperature.
Can be stored in an airtight container for several weeks.

 

Spanakopita (Spinach Pie)

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Arguably the most famous of Greek dishes, no gathering of Greeks is complete without Spanakopita. This is one of those recipes that our mothers and aunts know how to make with their eyes closed. They don’t measure anything, and when you ask them how much of an ingredient to use they say things like “αρκετό” (enough) or “μπόλικο” (a lot). Not very helpful, right? Our Mom was starting to get a little annoyed with us while she made this Spanakopita because we kept stopping her to measure things. You will see her beautiful hands in a lot of these pictures. Those hands make a mean Spanakopita.

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For the filling you’ll need spinach, leeks, scallions, dill, parsley, eggs and, of course, feta cheese.

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Split the leek lengthwise and rinse it under cold water to remove any dirt. Then split it lengthwise again, and chop it up. Chop the scallions while you’re at it.

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Saute the leek and scallions in olive oil until they are soft, then set the pan aside to let them cool a bit.

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Add spinach leaves to a large bowl. Sprinkle with salt and massage the leaves to soften them up and wilt them.  We used baby spinach here.  If you use regular spinach you will want to remove the thick stems and chop the leaves up a bit.  You can also use frozen spinach. Just defrost it first and then squeeze out all of the excess liquid. So many options.

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Crumble 2/3 of the feta into the spinach. Note how the spinach looks after it has been  “massaged”. It is wilted and has reduced in volume.

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Chop up the parsley and dill.

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Add the chopped parsley and dill to the spinach, along with the sautéed leeks and scallions. Combine very well and then drizzle with olive oil. Beat eggs in a small bowl until just combined and add to spinach mixture. Combine well and set spinach mixture aside.

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Grab your pan.  We used a 13×9 inch pan with 2 inch sides. Brush the pan with olive oil and then lay 2 sheets of phyllo across the bottom of the pan. The phyllo should hang over the sides of the pan. Brush the phyllo with more olive oil, and then repeat with 2 more sheets of phyllo. See our post on Tiropitakia for more detail about working with phyllo dough. You will be using whole sheets of phyllo here, so no need to cut them in advance.  If you are not as quick with phyllo dough as our Mom, you should cover the sheets that are not in use with a slightly damp cloth so that they don’t dry out. 

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Pour the spinach mixture into the pan, then take the rest of the feta cheese and sprinkle it evenly over the spinach.

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Fold the overhanging phyllo 2 sheets at a time into the pan to partially cover the spinach mixture. Brush with olive oil.  Repeat with the remaining 2 sheets of overhanging phyllo.

 

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Fold one sheet of phyllo in half and lay it over the exposed spinach. Brush with olive oil.

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Cover the entire pan with 1 full sheet of phyllo.  Using a sharp knife or kitchen scissors, cut around the edges of the phyllo so that it is just slightly larger than the internal perimeter of the pan and then use a knife to tuck the edges of the phyllo neatly down into the sides of the pan. Brush with olive oil. Repeat with 3 more sheets of phyllo, brushing with olive oil between each layer.  Sprinkle a little water over the entire pan to help the sheets of phyllo stick together when you cut into the spanakopita.

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Before you pop this in the oven, you need to score the phyllo (cut it, but not very thoroughly).  You can make the portions as large or small as you would like.  We made 3 horizontal cuts to create 4 rows, and then made vertical cuts on the diagonal to create diamond shaped pieces.

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Bake at 350 degrees for about 1 hour, or until it looks as golden as this and your house smells like Greek heaven.  Let it cool for about 15 minutes before cutting, using the lines you cut before baking as your guide.

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Spanakopita can be enjoyed warm or at room temperature.

Spanakopita (Spinach Pie)

Source: Athena Merianos

2 10oz bags of spinach (baby or regular). You can also use frozen spinach (defrost and squeeze to remove excess liquid)
1 leek, washed well and chopped (see instructions below)
4 or 5 scallions, chopped
1 cup dill, chopped
3 eggs
1/2 lb feta cheese
1/2 cup parsley, chopped
1 cup olive oil, divided
1 package phyllo dough, room temperature
To prepare leek: Split leek lengthwise and wash under running water to remove all dirt. Split lengthwise again, and then cut across into medium sized pieces.
Heat 1/4 cup olive oil in large sauté pan and sauté leeks and scallions until soft. Set aside.
Add spinach leaves to a large bowl.  Sprinkle with salt and massage leaves to bruise, wilt and soften.
Crumble 2/3 of the feta with your fingers over the spinach.  Add chopped parsley and dill,  as well as the sautéed leeks and scallions. Combine very well  (go ahead and use your hands if you are feeling extra Greek today). Drizzle with 1/4 cup olive oil.
Beat eggs in a small bowl until combined and pour over spinach mixture. Combine well and set spinach mixture aside.
Brush a 13x9x2 inch pan with olive oil and lay 2 sheets of phyllo into the pan letting the excess phyllo hang over the edges.  Brush the phyllo (both the bottom and sides of pan) with olive oil.  Repeat with 2 more phyllo sheets.
Add spinach mixture to pan and spread evenly. Crumble rest of feta evenly over the top. Fold overhanging phyllo 2 sheets at a time into pan to cover spinach mixture. Brush with olive oil.  Repeat with the remaining 2 sheets of phyllo.
Fold one sheet of phyllo in half and lay it over the exposed spinach. Brush with olive oil.
Cover the entire pan with 1 full sheet of phyllo.  Using a sharp knife or kitchen scissors, cut around the edges of the phyllo so that it is just slightly larger than the internal perimeter of the pan and then tuck the edges of the phyllo neatly down into the sides of the pan. Brush with olive oil. Repeat with 3 more sheets of phyllo, brushing with olive oil between each layer.  Sprinkle a little water over the entire pan to help the sheets of phyllo stick together when you cut into the spanakopita.
Score spanakopita with a knife before cooking.
Bake at 350 for 1 hour until cooked through and golden.

 

Fasolakia Yahni (Green Beans in Tomato Sauce)

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After the gluttony of Thanksgiving, does anyone else feel the need to ingest nothing but vegetables for the next couple of days?  If so, here is a recipe for you — but first you should understand something about Greek vegetables.  They are shall we say “cooked through”.  Never crisp or crunchy. When we were kids we might have described them as “mushy”, but now that we are all grown up and know better we use the term “velvety” instead.

Here’s how you make them…

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You’ll need green beans, onion, either fresh or canned tomatoes, parsley, salt & pepper

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Saute a diced onion in some olive oil until soft.

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Add the green beans to the pot and sauté for about 5 minutes, then add just a little water and cover.

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Peel a couple of fresh tomatoes, dice them, and add some salt. Let them sit a bit.  Or just use about a cup of canned crushed tomatoes. See the complete recipe below for more about fresh vs canned tomatoes. It’s fascinating.

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Add the tomatoes to the green beans. Combine well, then cover and cook over medium heat for about 30 minutes.

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Before serving, sprinkle with fresh parsley.

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Kali Orexi !

Fasolakia Yahni  (Green beans in tomato sauce) Serves 4-6

Source: Athena Merianos

1/2 cup olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 lbs green beans, ends trimmed
1 cup canned crushed tomatoes or 2 ripe tomatoes, or some combination
salt & pepper to taste
Heat olive oil in a medium pot over medium high heat.  Add onion and sauté just until soft.  Add green beans and sauté for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently.  Add 1/4 cup water and cover.  Reduce heat to low and let simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Beans should still have a bit of crunch to them at this point.  Add tomatoes.
If you are using fresh tomatoes: While beans are simmering, remove skin from tomatoes and chop roughly. Put in small bowl, add salt, stir and let sit for a bit then add to beans. If your tomatoes are not very ripe or juicy, you might want to add a little canned crushed or pureed tomato and a bit of water.  We used 2 tomatoes and added 1/4 cup pureed tomato about 1/4 cup water.  Might need more or less, depends on the tomatoes.
If you are using canned tomatoes: open the can and measure out 1 cup’s worth. (:
Mom swears that adding fresh tomatoes makes the beans much tastier.  Maybe the extra work is worth it when it is tomato season, but if it’s January and the tomatoes are pink and hard as rocks, I would just used good quality canned tomatoes.
Cover and cook over medium heat for about 30 minutes or until desired doneness.  Greek folks like their green beans very soft and tender.
Add parsley.  Salt and pepper to taste.

 

Tiropitakia (Phyllo Cheese Triangles)

 

tiropitakia
Our first post may have been a bit obscure, but this one is about as classic as you can get. Throughout our childhood, watching the moms gathered around the table folding these little triangles was a sure sign that a party would be happening soon. They are the perfect appetizer, and the cheese filling can be modified to suit your taste.  Our Mom likes to add milder cheeses to the feta and use white pepper so there are no specks of color, but other people prefer a bolder flavor and add stronger cheeses (like kefalotiri) and herbs. We love that these can be frozen before baking so you can have them ready in advance, and bake them up at the last minute. They are best when served warm, but taste pretty great at room temperature, too.
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Grate feta cheese into a large mixing bowl.
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Add cottage cheese, cream cheese, eggs and white pepper and combine well.  Filling is done!
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Remove phyllo from packaging.  Unroll to remove the plastic sheet it is wrapped in, and then re-roll.
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Slice into rolled “bundles” that are about 2 inches wide.  Mom’s tip: after you slice the first bundle, use it as a guide to make each bundle the same width.
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Phyllo can dry out very quickly.  While you are working with the first bundle, be sure to cover the rest so they don’t dry out.  You can use a damp cloth, or just slide the bundles back into the plastic tube from the phyllo packaging.
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Unroll one bundle.  You will have a pile of phyllo strips. Take 2 strips of phyllo and lay them out stacked on top of each other on your work surface. Brush lightly with melted butter and place about a teaspoon of filling at one end.
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Grab one corner and fold it over the filling, then keep folding end over end to make a triangle shape.
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Place on a cookie sheet. Repeat until sheet is full.  Brush triangles with melted butter and poke a little air hole into each triangle using a toothpick.  The tiropitakia can be frozen at this point.  Freeze right on the cookie sheet for about 30 minutes, then you can transfer them to a freezer bag or other container.
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Bake at 350 for 20 minutes or until golden brown.  Add about 5 minutes to cooking time if tiropitakia are frozen. Serve warm.
Tiropitakia (makes about 70 triangles)
1/2 pound feta cheese
1 8oz container cottage cheese
1/2 block of cream cheese, softened
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 package phyllo dough – room temperature
1 stick of butter, melted
white pepper (we didn’t have any so used black here)
Filling:
Grate feta cheese into a large mixing bowl, add cottage, and cream cheese. Add lightly beaten eggs and combine.  Add white pepper and combine. Set aside.
Remove phyllo from packaging . Slowly unroll to remove plastic wrapping, then reroll.  Cut into 2-inch wide “bundles”.   Mom’s tip: Use your first bundle as your guide to make them all evenly sized.
While you are working with one bundle, cover the rest of the phyllo using plastic wrap, or a damp paper towel or something so it doesn’t dry out.  Mom likes to put the bundles back in to the plastic sleeve from the phyllo packaging. She’s smart like that.
Unroll one bundle.  Take 2 sheets of phyllo together and spread them (stacked on top of each other) on your work surface.  Using a pastry brush, brush lightly with melted butter.  Add about 1/2 teaspoon of cheese mixture to one end of phyllo strip and fold (corner to opposite straight edge) turning over and over until triangle shape is complete (see photo). Place on cookie sheet.  Repeat.
Make a small air hole in each triangle using a toothpick.  Brush top of each triangle with melted butter.  (Can freeze at this point.  Freeze in one single layer on a cookie sheet for about 30 minutes, and then you can transfer to a freezer bag or tupperware container).  Bake at 350 for 20 minutes or until golden (add about 5 minutes to cooking time if you are starting with frozen tyropitakia).

Youvarlakia   

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Here it is…our first attempt at documenting our family recipes. Between work schedules, kids activities, and our Mom’s church volunteering, it took us awhile to  get this first post off the ground.  So, when we finally found the time and had to decide what to make it boiled down to two things: something that wouldn’t take all day, and something that our kids would eat.  If we were going to take the time to cook, document the recipe, and take pictures, we definitely didn’t want to have to make dinner that night!  This isn’t the prettiest or the most well-known Greek dish out there, but it is something that we ate all the time growing up.  A weeknight staple, if you will. It requires basic ingredients and doesn’t take long to come together.  Plus, our kids love these and call them ‘Golden Meatballs’.  What more can you ask for?

Scroll to the bottom of this post for the full recipe, including modifications to make this egg-free if you happen to love someone with an egg allergy.

Here’s how you make it:

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Boil some water in a small saucepan.  Add the rice just until the water starts to boil again, then drain it and set it aside.

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Saute a chopped onion until it is translucent and soft, then add it to the rice.

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Add chopped parsley to the rice and onion. Stir it around to let the mixture cool.

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Add 3 cups water, salt and pepper to the pot in which you sautéed the onion.  Let it simmer while you make the meatballs.

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Add the parley, rice and onion to ground beef and combine well.  Add one egg and some olive oil and mix some more.

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Form into meatballs, well actually long, thin barrel shapes that look like this.

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Ready?

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Add the meatballs to the simmering water one at a time.  You want to go slowly so that the water temperature doesn’t drop.

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The water should just barely cover the meatballs.  Add more (boiling) water to the pot if you need to.

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Cook covered for about 30 minutes or until the meatballs are cooked through and look like this.

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Then drain all the liquid into a small saucepan. Time to make the sauce.

Beat eggs with an electric mixer.

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Add lemon juice, continue to mix.

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Add the reserved warm broth a little at a time while you mix.  If you add it too fast, you’ll get scrambled eggs which is definitely not the desired effect. Keep mixing until it is frothy and creamy like this.

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Pour sauce over the meatballs, and serve.  Like we said, not the prettiest but it tastes great. Promise.

Youvarlakia (Golden Meatballs)   Serves 4-6 

Source: Athena Merianos

Ingredients

1/3 cup long grained rice (Mom always uses Uncle Ben’s)
1 medium onion, minced
1/2 cup flat-leafed parsley, minced
2 lbs ground beef
1 egg (can omit if want to make this egg-free)
salt and pepper
for sauce:
2 eggs
juice of 2 lemons
reserved broth
egg-free sauce option :
1T flour
juice of 2 lemons
reserved broth
To make meatballs:
Boil 1 cup of water in a small saucepan.  Add rice.  Bring to a boil and then immediately remove from heat, drain water and set rice aside in a large mixing bowl.
Heat 1 Tsp olive oil in a medium pot over medium-high heat and sauté onion until translucent and soft. Remove onion from pot and add to rice to cool.
And add 3 cups water, 1 heaping teaspoon salt and pepper (to taste) to the pot you just used for the onions. Let simmer while you form meatballs.
Add parsley, salt and pepper to onion/rice mixture and combine. Add ground beef and one egg.  Combine very well using your hands (Note: If making without egg, wet your hands first —   adds some moisture so meatballs won’t be tough).  Drizzle with a little olive oil and mix again until just combined.  Form into long thin barrel shapes.
Turn the water up to high and bring to a boil. Slowly add the meatballs one at a time to the boiling water in order to maintain the water temperature   (If you add them too fast the water temp will drop and the water will cease to boil). Keep a small pot of water boiling on the side in case you need to add liquid to the pot. There should be just enough liquid in the pot to barely cover the meatballs.  Reduce heat, cover, and let simmer for about 30 minutes or until meatballs are cooked through.
When meatballs are cooked through, carefully drain all of the liquid into a small saucepan.  Keep meatballs covered in pot (off heat) to keep warm while you make the sauce.
To make sauce:
Beat eggs in a medium bowl with an electric mixer.
Add lemon juice and continue to beat until frothy.
Using a ladle, slowly add warm reserved broth one scoop at a time to egg/lemon mixture (keep mixing).  Careful not to add the broth too quickly or it will scramble the eggs.
When all of the broth has been added, return the mixture back to the pot with the meat. Shake the pan to distribute the sauce. Combine gently to prevent meatballs from breaking.
For egg-free sauce:
Combine reserved broth, 1T flour, and lemon juice using immersion blender until frothy.