It’s time everyone, time for the 2018 Saint Demetrios Greek Festival in Fort Lauderdale. It’s this weekend February 8th through the 11th. The sun is shining, there’s a stiff breeze and the huge, white tents are up. The kitchen’s a veritable hive of activity; our ladies group, Philoptochos, is in charge of the mouth-watering baked goods. You know….all those little butter cookies calling out to you and no one else, telling you how perfect they are dunked in a hot cup of coffee with steamed milk for breakfast? Or how about the butter and nut cookies resting on a thick pillow of powdered sugar? I’m partial to the spice cookie that has been quickly dipped in a honey and orange syrup called melomakarona, redolent with cinnamon and cloves. Ugh! It’s a dieter’s nightmare. But I tell myself it’s once a year and IT’S FOR THE CHURCH. Thinking of all these ladies, most of them grandmothers and great-grandmothers, mixing and rolling and baking all these sweets from days gone by makes me incredibly happy. Also sharing the kitchen is a team of chefs who crank out hundreds of trays of the most delectable food ever. They are known for their enormous, meat falling off the bone lamb shanks. Having worked on the outside food lines for years, I can tell you folks drive down from the Palm Beaches and up from Miami to savor this lamb. They often purchase two or three additional lamb dinners to take home. I don’t blame them. These shanks aren’t available in grocery stores so you can’t make them at home even if you wanted to. Again, it’s a once a year treat. For those who might not care for lamb, thick, fat wedges of moussaka or the Greek version of lasagna, pastitsio, are available, both oozing with warm cheese and creamy bechamel. But let’s pretend you don’t want a full meal, (who am I trying to kid but I’ll try), all you have to do is step outside for authentic Greek grilled sausage with cheese flamed in brandy, gyro sandwiches stuffed with savory meat, lettuce, tomato and cold Greek yoghurt sauce, hand-held spinach and cheese pies wrapped in phyllo dough so crispy they shatter when you bite into them. Want more? There is a whole lamb roasting on a spit outside while being basted with garlic, oregano and olive oil. Boom. It gets no better. And, because we’re all adults here, you can enjoy your delicacies with an assortment of beer and wine or an ice-cold bottle of water or soft drink. We, who volunteer all weekend, will also drink our weight in Greek coffee, hot or iced and prepared right in front of you. I can’t wait! As you walk in from any direction the gorgeous perfume of grilled food and the strains of Greek music surround you. The children of the church, some small and some not so small, dance the dances from the villages of Greece all in authentic costumes of the region. They’ve practiced all year, all the intricate steps seared into their memory banks. They dance with joy and abandon as the choreography is now second nature. You’ll meet kids in their late teens through their twenties smiling at you while serving beer and wine, parking cars or clearing food trays, all parishioners and most of them alumni dancers having started at five or six old. And you know what the beautiful part is? They’re ALL still close, close friends. They’ve passed the baton to the younger kids and accepted the baton handed them from older parishioners whose achy knees or backs no longer allow them the pleasure of standing all day and selling homemade rice pudding or pushing around a dolly with five or six cases of tomatoes or pork souvlaki. No, these men have earned their spots on fold out chairs. This is their time to flip worry beads while wearing black wool fishermen’s caps. And ladies, sit right down and enjoy that frothy Nescafe frappe while gossiping with your best friend about how your loukoumades syrup is made. God bless you all for tirelessly giving so many years to this church and festival! There is so much more I haven’t touched on. There are glorious tours of the church touching on and explaining a myriad of details and facts about the architecture and iconography. There will be Greek food demonstrations…you might just see me preparing hummus or roasted eggplant dip. I hope you come see us and taste life at the Greek table!
Greek Fish Roe Dip, Taramasalata
- 4 ounces tarama (fish roe)
- 8 slices white bread, stale and crusts removed
- 3+ tablespoons fresh lemon juice, additional if needed
- 1/2 cup to 1 cup, half canola oil and half extra virgin Greek olive oil
- bread for serving
- Place slices of bread in a bowl and cover with water. Allow the bread to soak up the water then, using your hands, squeeze the water out.
- Using a food processor or blender, add the bread, fish roe and lemon juice.
- With the food processor or blender running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil.
- Taste for any flavor adjustments such as more lemon juice or olive oil.
- Continue blending until light and fluffy, 7-10 minutes.
- Serve with bread or transfer to container, cover and refrigerate.
Not only is this one of my favorite appetizers but it’s also one of my go-to “I’m beat” dinners. I always have plenty left over for lunches the next day and if I’m just so dead-dog tired I can’t muster up the energy to include the meat or shrimp mixture, well, hey! It’s okay. These egg rolls taste terrific with or without a little protein so if you’re doing a no-meat Monday or you are a vegetarian then these egg rolls are for you. In fact, they taste just like the ones you get at a Chinese restaurant. My boys love them and the following day they have an even deeper flavor after being crisped up in the oven for 10 minutes then swirled in a puddle of duck sauce and Chinese hot mustard and washed down with a couple of cold beers. This recipe can be assembled the day prior to serving which makes for easy party prep. Simply roll them all up, cover with plastic wrap and chill until ready to cook. And since they fry up in minutes you’re not chained to the kitchen yet you still have one more hot appetizer to serve your guests. These are so dang good, kind of a sleeper and they’re not often served at home so check this out. You may just have a new obsession.
Crunchy Chinese Egg Rolls
- 21 egg roll wraps (Nasoya makes a 1-pound package and I find it in my produce section alongside the Asian vegetables)
- 3/4 pound ground pork, chicken, shrimp or tofu
- 8 minced cloves of garlic
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2-3 tablespoons soy sauce (I always use reduced sodium)
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- 1 16-ounce bag chopped cabbage and carrot coleslaw mix, if you can’t find chopped shredded is fine
- 8 scallions (spring onions), sliced diagonally
- 1 tablespoon water
- vegetable oil for frying
- sliced scallions or cilantro leaves for garnish (optional)
- In a small pan brown the meat or shrimp with the garlic and ginger.
- Mix the salt, soy sauce and sesame oil and stir into brown meat. Mix well.
- In a large bowl toss the cabbage mixture and scallions.
- Add the hot meat mixture to the cabbage and mix well.
- Place an egg roll wrap in front of you so there is a corner pointing up, down, left and right. Kind of like a diamond.
- Place about 4 tablespoons of the meat/cabbage filling in the center of the wrap and fold the bottom point tightly over the filling and roll barely once.
- Holding the filling down, fold in the left corner then the right.
- Dip your finger in the water and moisten the top point. This is your glue to keep the egg roll closed.
- Continue rolling up and set the finished egg roll aside.
- Repeat with the remaining filling and wraps.
- Heat 3 inches of oil in a large frying pan on high , about 375°.
- Carefully place as many rolls as will fit in your pan without crowding and fry the egg rolls 2 minutes per side.
- Drain on paper bags or paper towels, scatter a little chopped scallion or cilantro leaves on them and serve immediately.
- Serve with duck sauce, hot Chinese mustard or hoisin sauce.
Sometimes chocolate is the best last resort. You’ve apologized, prayed, fretted and worried, yelled, torn your cuticles and had one too many drinks. Maybe chocolate is the answer. Not as a long-term solution but this recipe will certainly smooth ruffled feathers and ease worried minds for the time being. These brownies were created by baking maven, Maida Heatter, and are classic world renown treats. If you served brownies at a wedding, these are the ones you want. If your precious angel is going through a rough time at college, these are the brownies to pack in an empty shoe box. I made a few changes in the way I bake them. I sprayed the tin foil lined baking pan with non-stick cooking spray as opposed to applying the melted butter process. Worked fine. I used pecans in place of walnuts because I adore pecans and I find walnuts to be bitter…I don’t know…I’m just not a fan. The final change I made was rather than purchase 2 bags of York Peppermint Patties I used 2 7.7-ounce bags of Ghiradelli Chocolate Peppermint Brownie Squares I found on clearance after the holidays. I had started actually dipping into one of the bags for an occasional treat and that’s never good. I had no business buying more chocolates. Boy howdy, do I love these brownies! It is imperative you chill these overnight for the best results. Somehow it all works together and makes this dessert well worth the wait.
Maida Heatter's Palm Beach Mint Brownies
- 8 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
- 8 ounces unsalted butter
- 5 large eggs
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon espresso powder
- 3 3/4 cups sugar
- 1 2/3 cups sifted unbleached flour
- 2 cups shelled walnuts, broken into large pieces
- 2 15-ounce bags chocolate covered peppermint patties
- Pre-heat oven to 425°. Line a 9″ X 13″ x 2″ pan as follows: Invert the pan and center a 17″ length of aluminum foil, shiny side down, over the pan. With your hands, press down on the sides and corners of the foil to shape it to the pan. Remove the foil. Turn the pan right side up. Place the foil in the pan and very carefully press it into place in the pan. Now, to butter the pan, place a piece of butter (additional to that in ingredients) in the pan, and put the pan in the oven. When the butter is melted, use a pastry brush or a piece of crumbled plastic wrap to spread the butter all over the foil. Set the prepared pan aside.
- Place the chocolate and the butter in the top of a large double boiler over moderate heat or in a 4- to 6-cup heavy saucepan over low heat. Stir occasionally, until the chocolate and butter are melted. Stir to mix. Remove from heat and set aside.
- In the large bowl of an electric mixer, beat the eggs, vanilla and almond extracts, salt, espresso powder and sugar at high-speed for ten minutes. On low-speed add the chocolate mixer (which may still be warm) and beat only until mixed. Then add the flour and again beat on low-speed only until mixed. Remove the bowl from the mixer and stir in the walnuts.
- Pour half the mixture (about 3 1/2 cups) into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Place a layer of the mints, touching each other and the edges of the pan, all over the chocolate layer. Cut some mints to fill in large spaces on the edges. (You will not use all the mints. There will be some left over.) Pour the remaining chocolate mixture into the pan and smooth all over.
- Bake for 35 minutes, reversing the pan front to back once during baking to ensure even baking. At the end of 35 minutes the cake will have a firm crust on top but if you insert a toothpick in the middle it will come out wet and covered with chocolate. Nevertheless, it is done. Do not bake any longer.
- Remove the pan from the oven; let stand until cool. Cover the pan with a cookie sheet and invert the pan and the sheet. remove the pan and the foil lining. Cover the length of the cake with a length of wax paper and another cookie sheet and invert again, leaving the cake right side up. Now, the cake must be refrigerated for a few hours or overnight before it is cut into bars.
- When you are ready to cut the cake, use a long, heavy knife with a sharp blade, either serrated or straight-try both. Cut the cake into quarters. Cut each quarter in half, cutting through the long sides. Finally, cut each piece into 4 bars, cutting through the long sides. (I think these brownies are better in narrow bar shapes than in squares.) Pack brownies in an airtight box or wrap individually in clear cellophane, wax paper or foil. They freeze perfectly and can be served very cold or at room temperature.
It’s Sunday, cloudy with soft and erratic rain showers as if Mama Nature hasn’t quite decided if today will be soggy or not. I find days like today the perfect time to put together a cooking project which produces immediate results, looks good, doesn’t break the bank and does not eat up an entire afternoon. This recipe for Worcestershire sauce fits the bill. Two added bonuses are the recipe yields plenty for your future use and makes a fabulous gift for a fortunate friend. By the way, the sauce is a super hostess present or Christmas gift when presented in a fetching bottle with a pretty bow or tag. It will leave you sitting pretty and pleased as punch. This recipe really ought to age at least a month before using as the flavor ripens…almost blooms, becoming fuller and round. Obviously there is a good amount of both vinegar and fresh horseradish but allowed to mature, this sauce is a wonderful surprise when the undertones of cloves and molasses are tasted behind the mustard and anchovies. As good as store-bought is, it cannot compare to handmade. I marinate steaks in a mixture of Worcestershire sauce and soy sauce before tossing them on the grill. What a difference this sauce makes! And just imagine how glorious a spicy batch of Bloody Marys would taste. Cheers!
You may not have noticed, but most grocery stores carry fresh horseradish in the produce department. I typically find it hiding behind the turnips and rutabagas so make certain to ask if you can’t find it. I store my Worcestershire sauce in pint and half-pint canning jars. And, yes, the sauce needs to be refrigerated.
Handmade Worcestershire Sauce
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 1/2 cups fresh horseradish, peeled and roughly chopped
- 2 medium onions, roughly chopped
- 1/4 cup minced garlic
- 1/4 cup minced jarred jalapeno peppers
- 1 2-ounce tin of flat anchovies in oil, drained well and finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons dry mustard
- 2 tablespoons salt
- 1 tablespoon freshly cracked black pepper
- 1 1/2 heaping teaspoons whole cloves
- 4 cups distilled white vinegar
- 2 cups water
- 2 cups dark corn syrup
- 1 1/2 cups molasses
- cheesecloth to strain the sauce
- In a heavy-bottomed pot, warm oil over medium heat.
- Into the hot oil add the horseradish, onion, garlic and jalapeno pepper. Stir well and cook until the onion becomes clear.
- Add remaining ingredients, stir well and bring to a boil.
- Drop the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 1 1/2 hours.
- Allow to cool before handling hot sauce.
- Line the sieve with 4-6 layers of cheesecloth and place sieve over a pitcher or receptacle which holds at least 7 or 8 liquid cups.
- Working in batches, ladle mixture into lined sieve and press down on solids to get all the flavors. I gather the ends of the cheesecloth together in a bundle and squeeze the solids by hand.
- When the cheesecloth is full, discard solids and strain a new batch until all the sauce has been strained.
- Transfer to clean jars and cool.
- Cover with lids and refrigerate. The sauce is best after 30 days.
Growing up there was no baking done in our house. None. No cookies, no cakes. Except during the holidays Mama would bake a frozen apple pie and when girlfriends spent the night, which was almost never, she always and without fail prepared Pepperidge Farm Puff Pasty Apple Turnovers. But Mama had a tendency to burn things…anything…everything and these turnovers were no exception. She had one baking sheet, an old, warped aluminum sheet covered with burnt-on stains. I looked at them as friendly reminders of her past culinary disasters. Saturday mornings during sleepovers Mama couldn’t “pop” the turnovers in the oven, oh no. Everything she did was done at hyper speed, from the moment she flew out of bed in the morning until the moment she collapsed into bed at night. As Mama slammed the baking sheet into the oven, the pastries skittering wildly about the tray, the crash of metal on metal and the slamming of the oven door could be heard down the street…or at least on our side of the house. And as I stretched in my twin bed with its girly white lace bedskirt, I looked over at Dana/Andrea/Ann waking up in the matching twin bed with the identical bedskirt. We always smiled knowing we could breakfast later at their house with the utmost confidence it wouldn’t be burned. Sure enough, Mama rapped on our door on the bedroom door with the back of her hand, her middle knuckle sounding like the rat-a-tat-tat of a machine gun. “Girls! Breakfast is ready!” I always wanted to sing back, “We know. We smelled the smoke.” but that would have been sassy and disrespectful and Mama DID NOT tolerate any of that in her house. No, ma’am. She would not have batted an eye in front of anyone outside of the family, but later? Holy Mary, mother of Jesus! She was liable to wash your mouth out with an enormous, white bar of Ivory soap AND ground you. Uh uh. Don’t sass Mama. Anyway, in our soft blue or pastel pink baby doll nighties off we’d saunter into the kitchen to find a bowl of freshly cut fruit, cold glasses of milk and a gorgeous platter of beautifully arranged turnovers, the pastries were all puffed up with layers of crunchy sweetness. Sadly, the bottom of each and every turnover was a solid, black charred mess. Every.Single.Time. Without speaking, we’d peel off and enjoy the tops which hadn’t burned and scrape the apple and nut goo on the bottoms with spoons while the exhaust fan roared in the background sucking out the smoke. That was the closest Mama came to baking apples and pastry and we were fine with it. When you’re twelve or thirteen you know when life is good and our lives were good. Good and rich with Mama’s love!
Baked Dulce de Leche Apples
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons white granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoon corn starch
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 4 apples
- 1 13-ounce can dulce de leche
- 2 sheets puff pastry, thawed and kept chilled until needed
- Line a small baking sheet with tin foil and set aside.
- Mix sugars, corn starch and cinnamon in a small bowl.
- Using a melon-baller 1″ in diameter, scoop the core out of each apple beginning at the stem and stopping before you get to the bottom of the fruit. You don’t want the dulce de leche to run out of the bottom.
- Roll each apple in the sugar mixture and press the mixture into the outside and inside of the fruit.
- Open both sheets of puff pastry and lay down side by side.
- Cut both sheets to make 4 rectangles.
- Place an apple in the center of one of the rectangles and fill with 2-3 teaspoons of dulce de leche. Save the remaining dulce de leche to serve with the hot apples.
- Bring up the short sides of the puff pastry and press into the apple. Gather up the long ends of the pastry and pinch together as if it was a bundle. Pinch closed any gaps or holes. Continue with the remaining apples and pastry.
- Preheat oven to 400°.
- Place apple bundles on the baking sheet and put in the freezer for 15 minutes for the pastry to firm up.
- Bake the apples 30-35 minutes or until the puff pastry is golden.
- Cool the apples 10-15 minutes before serving.
- Warm the remaining dulce de leche in the microwave until runny and serve with the baked apples.
The 2018 Saint Demetrios Greek Festival is upon us and I couldn’t be more excited. I am one of the thousands who love this church’s festival because of it’s authenticity…baked goods and Greek dishes prepared from old family recipes which over the years have been converted to feed the hordes of festival goers. Whether in Crete, the mainland or the islands, these festival dishes are the foods you find in the Greek home. The Greek table is a marvel regardless of lean times or times of ease and plenty. Every time I’ve been to Greece, I’ve discovered new foods or a completely new spin on an old dish. Of course, we all know feta cheese; briny and tangy sitting atop a Greek salad wearing a green and gold crown of locally grown oregano or still salty but now creamy tucked between several buttery sheets of shatteringly crisp filo dough married with spinach and sliced spring onion having been baked to perfection. How surprised I was when I was introduced to a typical appetizer, Feta Psiti, which is baked feta cheese topped with a good shower of hot pepper flakes and local oregano then doused with a liberal splash of fruity Greek olive oil! I had never had anything like that here in the States. My husband’s Greek family looked on with amusement as I dove in with abandon scooping up the melted cheese with torn off chunks of hot, crunchy bread. At another family gathering around the table, I thought I had found my new favorite food when my husband’s cousin served me Koukia, a gorgeous, creamy dish made from yellow split peas which have cooked down to a smooth, firm dip. Considered a salad, this dish is topped with Greek olive oil, chopped red onion, and a good dusting of oregano and I’m more than happy to call this dinner. My husband’s cousin was thrilled to have presented me with this humble yet unexpected treasure. The Greek table is like that. Always gathering one in, never shutting one out. “Come! Have coffee at my house and we’ll talk. I baked a cake”, is heard so often all through Greece. When you hear that, you ought to take them up on the offer for Greek coffee and baked goods are beyond delicious and the Greek table is where you’ll hear all the good village gossip. The following Greek olive oil cake is a recipe found throughout the country of Greece. Each recipe is slightly different…some add Greek yoghurt, liquors, orange or lemon but all are lovely and will bring you to the Greek table.
Dense, moist and velvety, this cake is an unlikely wonder touched with tones of orange, lemon, almond, and of course, green, fruity olive oil. Olive oil cake is a classic throughout Greece and once you have a taste you’ll know why. Somehow it works…all the flavors sing in perfect harmony. It’s a rather substantial cake so don’t be alarmed at the large amount of olive oil called for nor the fact that the batter will be rather runny. It will be gorgeous. And it’s a great do-ahead as the flavor improves the following day. Kali orexi!
Greek Olive Oil Cake
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3 large eggs
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 1/2 cups extra virgin Greek olive oil, Trader Joe’s makes a decent one
- 1 1/4 cups milk, I’ve used almond milk and the cake turned out fabulous
- 1/4 cup lemon juice
- 1/4 cup orange liquor
- 2 teaspoons lemon zest
- 2 teaspoons orange zest
- 3/4 cup finely, finely chopped sliced almonds. I use a mini-processor and pulse the nuts until they are small bits.
- 1 cup confectioner’s sugar
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin Greek olive oil
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- zest of one lemon
- zest of one lime
- Pre-heat oven to 350°. Butter an 11-inch cake pan and set aside.
- Into a medium-sized bowl sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
- In a large bowl mix well the eggs, sugar, olive oil, milk, lemon juice, liquor, lemon and orange zest and almond bits. Mix well until there are no lumps of sugar and the olive oil is completely incorporated.
- Mix the dry mixture into the wet mixture until well blended, pour into the prepared pan and bake for 50 minutes.
- Allow to cool on a cooling rack.
- Run a knife around the edge of the cake and invert onto a plate.
- Allow to cool completely prior to icing the cake. If the cake is to be served the following day, prepare and drizzle the glaze right before serving.
- Combine all ingredients except the lemon and lime zest in a small bowl and whisk until smooth
- Drizzle glaze over the cooled cake.
- Sprinkle with lemon and lime zest and serve.
Winter got you down? Tired of the cold and dreariness of it all? I understand. This mushroom and brie soup will wrap you snugly in its velvety smoothness and help sooth the Old Man Winter blues. It won’t make it so you can slap on a pair of Tory strappy sandals and show off your perfectly pedicured feet but I guarantee you will feel uplifted and heartened. And, besides, spring is almost around the corner. All right, maybe not quite around the corner, however, it will be here soon enough. In the meantime, tuck into this soup with a great book or movie and treat yourself kindly. This recipe calls for three pounds of mushrooms and that’s three pounds of any kind of fresh mushroom that floats your boat. I love using one pound of shiitake, (that’s all I can afford), and two pounds of button mushrooms. I purchase the button mushrooms whole and leave the stem on when roasting them. The stems of the shiitake should be removed prior to roasting due to the fact they are tough as leather. I pinch them off and discard them although some people save them for mushroom or vegetable broth. I’m not one of those people. Shiitake mushrooms are loaded with flavor; they’re quite woodsy and smoky; and I find button mushrooms to be earthy and meaty. It’s a marvelous combination. Because this soup is so luxurious and rich, I find a double cream Brie to be perfect. Triple cream tastes wonderful but is considerably more expensive so I leave it up to you. This mushroom soup is ample enough that, truly, the only addition one could possibly want is some hot, crunchy bread to dip and sop. I typically serve my mushroom soup with hot-out-of-the-oven garlic bruschetta. Yum! And the soup gets better overnight so pack up a couple of thermoses, share some with your coworkers and they’ll love you forever.
Cream of Roasted Mushroom and Brie Soup
- 3 pounds fresh mushrooms, mixed is great but pull off any woody stems
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 12 garlic cloves, peeled and rough chopped
- 2 heaping tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
- 3 generous tablespoons of flour
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1 cup white wine
- 4 cups chicken broth
- 8 ounces Brie cheese, rind cut off
- salt and pepper to taste
- Pre-heat oven to 400°.
- Place mushrooms on a rimmed baking sheet, drizzle the olive oil over the mushrooms, toss them with your hands until they are completely covered with the oil and spread out in an even layer.
- Roast in the oven until they begin to brown, about 45 minutes.
- In a heavy bottomed soup pot or dutch oven melt the butter over medium high heat.
- Add the onions and cook, stirring often, until they are clear.
- Add the garlic and thyme and stir.
- Add the flour and stir well. Cook for 3-4 minutes stirring constantly.
- Add the wine and chicken broth and stir until the flour has been incorporated completely and there are no lumps.
- Add the roasted mushrooms, cover and simmer for 15 minutes.
- Use an immersion blender to puree to your liking. You can also blend this in a food processor or blender.
- Add the milk and Brie and stir until the cheese has melted.
- Taste for any needed salt and pepper and serve.