Tag Archives: feta

Feta, Honey and Black Pepper Appetizer


Greece 2016…and I can’t wait!  With a bangin’ new pair of sunnies I had been lusting after, also came the Christmas gift of vaca back in Greece this coming summer.  Although it’s hot and the sun shines year round in south Florida, it’s a different kind of heat.  There’s no humidity; it’s dry as a bone.  In all the years we’ve been traveling to Greece we’ve experienced rain TWICE.  That’s it.  Two times.  I’ve never been in the winter but the photos I’ve seen are gorgeous.  We typically travel to the Northern Aegean where they have seasons including autumn and winter.  It snows often, not huge amounts, just enough to be pretty.  And fall brings blustery winds that sometimes are downright cold!  Greeks are incredibly social people but the colder weather does at times keep them inside.  But we’ll be back for summer on Lesvos, where the white-hot rays of sunlight can be blinding and the ink-black night skies are covered with thousands of stars that look like tiny, twinkling pin-pricks.  That’s the Greece I love.  From the balcony of the bar at the resort where we stay, which juts out over the twisted, silver trunks of ancient olive trees; or our breezy balcony nestled into the side of a hill, to the waterfront dinners at the harbor of Molyvos, the night skies are a galactic showcase.  Anywhere on this magnificent island is the best place to star gaze.  So, more often than not, it’s Molyvos where we watch the sun set and the stars come out.  Along with all the locals and tourists, albeit not many tourists but there are some, we scan the harbor restaurants for the best seats of the night at the best eating places.  Sturdy, ladder-back chairs with woven rush seating do not beckon as they are not known for comfort.  But that is all you’ll find at the harbor; each leaning against the table on two legs until their patron for the night whips them out, legs clattering against the smooth but uneven cobblestones, and plops down.  All tables are square but can be quickly joined together for larger groups.  Each table is covered with a paper tablecloth, usually white with a large, blue map of the island printed in the middle.  And since the nights are typically windy, the table coverings are held down in one of two ways.  Either a huge, knotted, cloth-covered elastic, (think your hair!), slipped over and under the lip of the table or four steel pins which slide over the table rim, one on each side.  Really, really standard.  Any person reading this who has been to Greece is probably shaking their head, chuckling and thinking, “yup”.  I haven’t been the biggest fan of Greek wine here in the States but in Greece it’s a whole other kettle of grapes.  Wine is produced everywhere and produced well.  Think Plato and Socrates.  And don’t forget Dionysus, god of wine.  I’ve only had excellent cold, crisp whites and big, full-bodied reds and typically these are house wines.  Glasses in hand, we peruse the menus we know by heart.  We pretty much order the same dishes from our own predictable menu.  We begin with maybe a small bowl of local olives in olive oil with fresh oregano strewn on top.  While savoring those we might discuss what time we want to pick up the ferry to the other side of the island for tomorrows adventure.  I always go with early so we have the day ahead of us but that’s just me.  Plus the air is cold and fresh, the morning sunlight is blinding on the water, the salt spray is positively intoxicating.  The captain and I usually kick our shoes off and sometimes he lets me take over.  Scary but true!

And you thought I was telling stories.
And you thought I was telling stories.

Post olives we may order some grilled bread and a little feta.  Dinner we’ll share.  The ever-present and proper Greek salad comes out crisp and oh, so satisfying.  Grilled octopus?  Sounds good.  With lemon and olive oil.  And it comes with french fries which I never order but can’t keep my hands off.  Greek french fries can be exquisitely delectable.  Fried in olive oil from the island to a golden crisp, dusted with fresh rosemary and local sea salt they are a treat.  Jimmy and I don’t really order meat in Greece because the Greek cuisine treats vegetables and fish so well.  The seafood and produce are like nothing we can get in the states.  Typically the owner of the restaurant or taverna will bring out a platter of fresh fruit with the check.  The fruit is their gift for patronizing their establishment.  Gorgeous, hot pink slabs of watermelon are common.  Or you may be surprised with fresh figs.  It’s heaven and I can’t wait!

Grilled bread with olive oil and fresh oregano and warm olives in olive oil round off this presentation. I also offer a small pot of honey for those who'd like more.
Grilled bread with olive oil and fresh oregano and warm olives in olive oil round off this presentation. I also offer a small pot of honey for those who’d like more.

This is a wonderful hors d’oeuvre which can be served alone or on a platter with other indulgences.  And you don’t really need amounts.  Let me walk you through this.  Place your Greek feta, and PLEASE purchase a high quality feta.  None of this store brand in cryovac, okay?  Anyway, put your feta on your tray or platter.  Drizzle it well with your favorite honey.  Throw a pinch of red pepper flakes on the cheese and follow with a heavy dusting, or to your taste, of freshly cracked black pepper.  Present and enjoy with pride!


Strawberry, Arugula and Feta Salad Drizzled with a Balsamic Vinegar Syrup


I’ve got another Girl’s Weekend coming up the end of July so while I was in TJMaxx this morning doing errands, (I was. I was at the cobbler’s next door dropping off an alligator bag and some Lily sandals. Truth.), I thought maybe I would look for a cute, black bathing suit, one that might cover up a multitude of sins.  Big, BIG mistake.  I am a barrel.  A great, big, snowy-white barrel.  You know, you think you hit rock bottom but you really haven’t.  Not when you’re still thinking about that outrageous cupcake you so delicately scarfed down last night.  It was bad, people.  The only reason I didn’t throw myself down on the dust-bunny covered linoleum dressing room floor was that my legs still look pretty good.  Small consolation but I’ll take it.  And I thought, “That’s it.  No more.  You’re done.  You know what you have to do.”  And I do.  I was raised in an almost completely vegetarian household.  I’m perfectly aware of what I should and should not be eating.  I’ve just not been paying heed to my “little voice”.  The “little voice” that continually reminds me that I weigh AT LEAST 20 POUNDS more than MY FATHER.  Ugh.  It’s all so unfair.  So back to loads of salads and vegetables, raw and grilled fruits and lean, mean proteins.  Clean, boneless, brainless chicken breasts, preferably organic, need to be at hand at all times; either grilled or poached.  That always makes a salad better.  I’ll even make wraps with it using  romaine or leaf lettuce instead of a tortilla.  Grilled shrimp and wild salmon, none of that fatty farm raised stuff.  I told myself driving home that it was GOOD I didn’t find a bathing suit this morning.  I have two beautiful, sexy La Biancas at home and there’s not one damn thing wrong with them.  It’s me that’s got the problem.  I have to tell you after I yanked and pulled and tugged to get the TJMaxx bathing suit on I was exhausted.  I turned and looked sideways at myself in the full length mirror.  How did I get here?  My shoulders slumped down, I let my spine curve and allowed my stomach to become COMPLETELY distended.  Oh, sweet Jesus.  I looked like Fred Mertz from the “I Love Lucy” show.  Well, Fred Mertz in drag.  Not a pretty picture and no one’s fault but my own.  So.  Taking the bull by the horns I came home to a kale salad and watermelon for lunch.  This afternoon my snack will be all the Greek mountain tea my heart desires.  Right now I’m on cup number two.  Sweetened with Stevia and completely caffeine free this will jump-start my weight loss.  And dinner will be this salad –  strawberry, arugula and feta with a drizzle of a balsamic vinegar reduction, a LIGHT scattering of toasted almond slices, a few chunks of good, Greek feta tucked in, all topped with a piece of roasted chicken.  And yes, I will rip that luscious, crispy piece of heaven off, known as the skin of roasted chicken, and lickety-split  deposit it in the garbage can underneath, I don’t know…coffee grounds or something.  I’m able to do that because this salad will satisfy me.  Aesthetically and physically.  Every girl loves shiny, scarlet berries sitting atop arugula, toasted almond slices and the rich purple of reduced balsamic vinegar.  Crown it with blackened or grilled chicken, fish or shrimp and most ladies will be quite happy especially if accompanied by a glass of wine in one hand and an enormous Tory Burch or Michael Kors shopping bag at their feet. When I finish writing today I’ll go to the market for my salad ingredients and a whole watermelon.  Tomorrow, hell, tonight, when I want to tuck into another of those smokin’ cupcakes I made I’ll have sweet, cold watermelon already cut up, protecting me from the evils of Fudgy Cupcakes with Orange Cardamom Cream Cheese Icing.  The photos have already been taken for the next post so I don’t even have to look at them.  And although I’ve succumbed to the temptation of those little cakes I’m stronger now.  Nudity will do that to you.  But in two weeks?  Look out, girls, ‘cuz I’m ‘a crunch those bathing suits!

Strawberry, Arugula and Feta Salad drizzled with a Balsamic Syrup

  • Servings: 2 dinner servings
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 1 5-ounce box baby arugula
  • 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 pint fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced, each in 4 slices
  • 1 cup crumbled feta cheese, PLEASE don’t buy that already crumbled stuff!  Buy a chunk of good quality feta and crumble it yourself.  Makes a world of difference.
  • 1 handful almond slices, lightly toasted
  • 4-5 tablespoons balsamic vinegar syrup, recipe follows, dress salad to your taste
  • shrimp, chicken or fish served along side is optional, a warm, crunchy whole grain roll is great with this also.
  1. Place arugula in a large bowl and drizzle olive oil over it.  Toss so all the leaves are coated with the olive oil.
  2. Mound arugula on two dinner plates.  Divide berries in half and place them evenly through out the greens.
  3. Divide the cheese as well between the two plates of salad.
  4. Scatter half the almonds over each salad.
  5. Lightly drizzle 2-3 tablespoons of the balsamic vinegar syrup over each salad and serve.



Balsamic Syrup

  • Servings: approximately 1/3 cup
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 1 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup honey
  1. Pour vinegar and honey into a small saucepan and mix until honey is completely incorporated into the vinegar.
  2. Simmer over medium-low heat for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally, but keep your eye on it so it doesn’t cook down too far and burn.
  3. Remove from heat and set aside.  Syrup will thicken further as it cools.
  4. When completely cool, store in a clean glass jar and refrigerate.
  5. You can change up the dressing by adding a few fresh bay leaves, smashed garlic cloves or cinnamon sticks to the saucepan while you’re simmering it.  Strain the dressing before serving or storing.




MY Big Fat Greek Wedding

This morning was the ordination of a young man who went from Deacon to Father.  What a joyous morning!  All kinds of hot-shot priests flew into town to officiate.  I knew my brother-in-law’s brother would be on the altar.  My Jimmy had mentioned that Father Alex is the young man’s spiritual father, helping and guiding him through life as a young boy, through Hellenic College, the Seminary and now, priesthood.  The entire church would witness his vows, vows that are forever.  Our son, James, was on the altar also, in his black robes…I call them “big boy robes”.  There was a wonderful Psalti chanting in Greek throughout the entire ceremony, his voice rising and falling in hypnotic notes while the priests on the altar sang and chanted their designated parts.  Then came the deep, baritone response “…through the ages of aaaAAAges”.  Jimmy turned and whispered in my ear, “Yup.  Father Alex is here.”  That low, rich timbre catapulted me back 23 years to when Jimmy and I were to be married.  When we first made plans to marry I got all the paperwork from St. Anthony’s parish church.  MY church.  The only church I knew.  The only church I wanted.  Turns out the Miami Archdiocese would have to annul Jimmy’s previous marriage in order to be married in the Catholic church.  Jimmy was furious.  “I am NOT having a panel of strangers in Miami pass judgement on me.  They don’t even know me.”  Well.  Okay.  I’m strong.  What matters is what’s in my heart.  I can marry in a church that’s not necessarily mine.  The Greek church is not THAT different from the Catholic church so it was decided we would marry in the Greek church.  But I told Jimmy, “You need to know RIGHT NOW I’m not doing anything.  I’m not taking any classes, I’m not going to any counseling, I’m not doing anything.”  He said that was fine and that he would take care of everything.  The day came when we were to meet with the parish priest whom, as yet, I had not met.  I recall it was a hot day but I was modestly dressed, my years at St. Anthony ingrained in me the appropriate way to dress in ANY church.  Jimmy and I were shown into the priest’s office.  Manners kicking in I immediately stretched out my hand and smiled as the introductions were made by Jimmy in Greek and English.  My heart just sank.  I knew, I KNEW, we were doomed.  The priest didn’t even stand up from behind his desk to greet me.  He just looked at me.  I knew he was judging me, categorizing me, grouping me with that brand of no-faith Anglo Philistine parasite that just takes up space on this planet and breathes other people’s fresh air.  Well, guess what?  I WASN’T that girl.  Yes, I was a “bad girl” but I was a “bad GOOD-girl”.  My stomach went into knots.  I looked at that man and thought, “Oh, God.  OH, GOD.  This is a bad man.  A bad, bad man.”  The priest’s eyes narrowed when he looked at me, he pursed his lips and spoke down at me.  I broke down.  My heart was screaming, SCREAMING I tell you, “This man cannot marry us.  He cannot marry me.” Jimmy and I had been through so much.  It had been difficult and rocky from almost the moment we met.  The priest spoke Greek to Jimmy knowing full well I spoke not a word.  I turned to Jimmy knowing the fateful words had to come from me.  After all we had been through and now this?  In a low voice I choked the words out to Jimmy, “I can’t do this with this man.  This man cannot marry us.”  There.  It was out!  I struggled unsuccessfully to control my tears.  I couldn’t breathe.  I knew if I did I would completely break down.  Every pore of my being felt an odious spirit emanating from this man and I couldn’t stand by and let this most precious of sacraments be condemned.  I bowed my head so he couldn’t have the pleasure of witnessing my grief but Jimmy saw the heartbreak and anguish building up inside me.  He leaned across the desk and in a cold, rapid fire burst of Greek Jimmy said something to the priest ending with, “Get Father Alex on the phone.  TORA.”  Tora means “now”.  The tension could be cut with a knife and the priest was furious.  I had never even met Father Alex, I only knew him as my future brother-in-law’s brother who happened to be a priest.  I barely knew Jimmy’s family.  WELL.  The priest made the fated call.  Jimmy spoke into the phone, in Greek, then handed me the phone gently saying, “Here.  Just talk to him”, and then he and the priest left the office.  I couldn’t speak.   I was too busy trying to contain the flood of pent-up tears and snot.  I took the phone and scarcely let out a small “hello?”.  What came next I will NEVER, EVER forget.  A deep, booming voice took over the phone and asked me, “Alicia, what’s wrong?  What is the problem?”  Trying desperately to curb my sobs and manage some sort of composure I explained my position and thoughts.  That I didn’t know this man but that I felt he wasn’t a good man.  He wasn’t a kind man.  He wasn’t a man of God.  I had never been married.  I wanted the priest at my wedding to be a spiritual, insightful, loving man.  I told Father Alex I couldn’t have this man marry us.  Then came the deciding question.  “Alicia,” he said.  “Do you want to marry in the church or do you want to get married by some justice of the peace in some office somewhere?”  Are you kidding?  I’ve always felt if you ain’t married in the church then you ain’t married.  I squeaked out a pathetic, “In the church.”,  and Father Alex’s rich, baritone voice answered, “Good.  I’ll take care of it.”  He blessed me then asked to speak to Jimmy.  A few weeks later we set the date.  And Father Alex HAD taken care of everything!   We were to be married the end of July.  The day before the wedding Jimmy mentioned in passing, “Oh, you need to have some crowns made for us.”  Crowns?  “Just something with some flowers on them or something.  And they have to  have a ribbon connecting them.  ‘K?”  Sure, I thought.  There were a couple of gay guys that had moved into the apartment below me.  I had spoken to them already about the boutonnieres…what’s a couple of crowns??  The day came.  Jimmy had already moved into our house.  I wasn’t there yet.  The night before the wedding was spent at my parent’s house.  The day of the wedding we had champagne in huge, silver goblets while putting on our makeup and getting dressed.  My little sister, Pamela, did my hair.  Mama gave me her beautiful silver rosary, the one she carried on her wedding day.  My bff, Dana, took video.  It was very surreal.  Slowly everyone left the house to get to the church, St. Demetrios.  I looked around and realized there wasn’t anyone left at home to drive ME to the church except my parents and my godfather!  Everybody just left.  The last time I had seen my godfather was at my baptism.  I guess it’s safe to say I really didn’t know him.  But I liked him.  A lot.  He and Dad had had loads of adventures that I had heard about all my life and besides, he had on a pale, lemon colored linen jacket with lavender pants.  Loafers, no socks.  My godfather drove me to my wedding.  What a darling man.  My glorious Jimmy was waiting at the altar with a wonderful NEW priest who was kind, gentle and loving.  Jimmy had arranged for a Psalti to chant at our wedding while we took OUR vows.  Vows that were forever.  And I have Father Alex to thank.  Pandote!  Forever!

Father Alex, Jimmy, James and me! Please excuse the bad hair…I had been helping in the church kitchen!


A sublime Greek dish, Spanakopita is pretty easy to prepare, completely satisfying and freezes beautifully.  An authentic Spanakopita is slim with spinach and other greens  surrounded by diaphanous sheets of phyllo that shatter in a burst of crispy heaven when baked.  Yes, I am a big fan of phyllo.  It is found in the frozen section of your grocery store usually in the pie section.  Some people butter every sheet, my preference is every two sheets.  Sometimes I use butter and it would be a good one.  Plugra and Kerrygold are both good products.  Often I use Greek olive oil in it’s place.  It’s just as rich and fulfilling but much better for you.  In tandem with the spinach I like not only fresh dill but also fresh mint.  I always use a high quality feta and sometimes jack the flavor up by adding a bit of freshly grated parmesan cheese.  Your choice.  Regarding eggs, whites are totally fine but use whites from eggs you cracked.  The ones in the cartons are just too thin and the filling oozes and spills all over the place.  I think I’ve covered everything.  Let’s get started!

Spanakopita, Greek Spinach Pie

  • Servings: 8-10
  • Difficulty: moderate
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  • 1 roll phyllo.  Most phyllo comes two rolls per box.  It will be frozen and MUST defrost in the refrigerator.  If you leave it on the counter to defrost the dough gets wet, mushy spots and tears when separated.
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup olive oil or butter, separated into 1/4 cups
  • 4 boxes frozen spinach, defrosted and drained of as much liquid as possible. I have an old, cotton tea towel I use only for squeezing the moisture out of spinach, grated cucumber, zucchini etc.
  • 2 grocery store bunches of fresh dill, washed and finely chopped
  • 1 large bunch flat leaf parsley, washed and chopped.  Curly’s fine if that’s all that looks good.
  • 1 bunch of mint, leaves washed and chopped
  • 3 eggs or the equivalent in whites
  • 8 ounces sheep’s milk feta cheese, more or less.  Already crumbled is NOT an option.
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese, optional
  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. Heat 1/4 cup olive oil or butter in a large pan over medium heat.
  3. Add onion and saute until softened and somewhat clear.
  4. Add spinach, dill, parsley and mint.  Stir until well combined.  Remove from heat and set aside.
  5. Crumble feta by hand into a small bowl and add eggs.  Stir to combine.
  6. Butter or use nonstick spray on a 9X13 pan.
  7. Set up your counter assembly line style with your phyllo covered with a damp, not wet, tea towel, the sprayed pan, a bowl with 1/4 cup olive oil or melted butter, and a clean basting brush or paint brush.
  8. Line pan with 2 sheets of phyllo and lightly brush dough with butter or olive oil.
  9. Continue using 2 sheets at a time alternately stacking and oiling until half the roll is used.
  10. Pour egg/cheese mixture into spinach and mix to combine well.
  11. Spread evenly over phyllo in pan.
  12. Continue stacking and oiling phyllo over spinach mixture until all the phyllo is used.  Finish last layer of phyllo with a light painting of the oil or butter.
  13. Using a sharp paring knife, cut serving size pieces in the shape of diamonds or squares through just the top layer of phyllo.
  14. Spray a fine mist of water over the entire pan or use your hand to sprinkle water over it.  This will keep your pie from falling apart and the phyllo from curling up.  No one will tell you this but trust me on this one.
  15. Bake for 45 to 60 minutes.
  16. Allow to cool 15-20 minutes then serve.  I use a plastic knife to cut through the pie so as not to scratch my pan.


Mr. and Mrs. Carras!

Baked Orzo with Lemon, Shrimp and Feta

It’s April and coming up on First Communion time at Saint Anthony church, the Catholic church where I grew up, heck, where we all grew up.  Tommy and Pamela were baptized there, all four of us made our First Communions there and Cynthia and Pamela were married there.  As an adult I discovered the beauty of Sunday’s 7:30 a.m. mass.  No organ playing, (I can’t stand organ music), no shrieking children’s choir, but more importantly, blessed anonymity.  There’s nothing worse than going to that cocktail party called “10:30 Mass”, looking out at your fellow parishioners and thinking, “Jesus H. Christ.  What does she have on?  I mean really.  Don’t tell me she looked in the mirror  and thought, “Now this is the look I want.  I am ready now.”.  That little voice inside me scolds, “What are you doing? You are in the house of the Lord.  Of our Lord.  Stop it.”  Back and forth it goes, so it’s really best if I go to the 7:30 service.  I stand in the very back… I lean against the confessionals and take in the cool quiet, the beautiful wood of the beamed ceiling and the sun streaming through the original stained glass windows, colors dancing and splashing onto terrazzo floors.  I think, “Bless me Father, for I have sinned.  It has been 12 years since my last confession.  Hope you packed a lunch.”.  Those same confessional doors were there when I made my First Communion.

Dad would take Cynthia and me to confession every Friday night, around five or six.  And, sometimes after confessing, IF we had had dinner, he would take us down to the beach to a little shack where they would make fresh, hot waffles from a little machine.  Then, with a practiced hand, cut off a big slab of Neapolitan ice cream and sandwich it between the steaming hot waffles.  Heaven.  We’d always take his car, an Austin Healy, with the top down, and park in front of the church’s double doors where he would wait patiently until we came out.  Cynthia was eight and I was six.  Right after my First Communion I went on a typical Friday night to confession,  stood in line outside the confessionals, and then, when it was my turn, went in, and knelt down.  A little muslin panel was pulled across a window so only a blurry profile was seen.  I began, “Bless me Father for I have sinned.  It has been one week since my last confession.  And my sins are…”  I can only imagine what my sins were since I was only six.  I didn’t even steal change out of my mother’s purse.  What,  I talked back when it was my turn to set the table?  I didn’t make my bed?  I called somebody the positively worst word I knew… SKUNK?  Whatever my sins were, I confessed.  I knew I had been stained by original sin, thanks to Adam and Eve, but I never dreamed I had committed mortal sin.  I didn’t really feel it was just to throw me into the venial category either.  But that was the first time I felt the skies had parted and God’s wrath had been hurled down directly at me.  That man, that priest, whoever he was, bellowed from the other side of the curtain, “YOU WHAT?  YOU HAVE SINNED!  YOU ARE A SINNER AND YOU HAVE SINNED!”.  The huge, thunderous voice rained down on me until I drowned in absolute terror.  No one had ever raised their voice at me, at us.  Not my parents, not a teacher, grandparents, neighbor, no one.  I wanted to be an angel.  I wanted to be holy.  I was six.  Six.  I just crumbled.  Huge, hot and uncontrollable tears spilled over.  I slipped out of the confessional, didn’t even say my penance, and ran from the church.  Cynthia was already in the car.  She wasn’t much of a sinner so it didn’t take her very long.  I don’t remember if I told my parents, but it shook me through and through.  And, sadly, at that age, adults are always right, even when they’re wrong.  The days rolled by and, once again, it was Friday, confession time.  Cynthia hopped out of the car, brightly announcing, “I’ll be right back”.  Yeah, we know.  I didn’t get out of the car.  My father asked, “Aren’t you going in?”.  “No”, I answered.  “Why not?”  “I don’t want to.”  “Okay.”  Okay.  That’s all he said.  Okay.  Gotta love that man.  Week after week Daddy took us to confession and I stayed in the car.  Then one Friday, Dad asked, “You going in?”  Opening the door and answering at the same time I replied, “Yup.”  I strolled right into St. Anthony’s and stood in line outside the confessionals. When it was my turn, I went into the confessional.  And guess what??  Nothing happened.  One Act of Contrition, two Hail Mary’s and an Our Father later, I had a brand new soul!  AND…a waffle and ice cream sandwich.


This is the dinner I would have liked to have had on a Friday night instead of Mama’s hour-long baked fish.  It is so light and savory, the flavors compliment each other well yet surprise with their lingering tones.  The dish is quite flexible, any small shaped pasta works great.  There is a little chopping, but, hey, you will be rewarded handsomely with clever and discerning compliments and your family will love you even more.  In place of shrimp you could use scallops or squid rings.  And goat cheese or any soft, crumbling cheese that marries with the acid of the lemon and tomato could be put to use rather than feta.  It’s what you like.  It’s a pretty dish and works well for a buffet or to serve a large number of people.  The lemon, fresh oregano and feta are insanely good together but if you wanted to dress the dish up a bit, a splash or two of Armagnac or ouzo will do the trick, added when you mix the tomatoes into the sauce.  I have to confess, it’s truly superb!



Baked Orzo with Lemon, Shrimp and Feta Cheese

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 1/2 pound small shaped pasta, such as orzo
  • 1 pound large shrimp, shelled, deveined and cut into bite sized pieces
  • 2 cups crumbled feta, crumble it yourself.  Don’t buy that already crumbled garbage.  Really.
  • 1 large bunch flat leaf parsley, washed, dried and chopped
  • 1 bunch fresh oregano, leaves chopped
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 4 or 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 large lemon, zested and juiced
  • 1 28-ounce can whole San Marzano tomatoes, rough chopped with juices
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Bring a large pot of water up to a boil for your pasta and cook pasta to box directions.
  2. While the pasta cooks and adding the feta last, add the remaining ingredients to a large bowl and mix to combine.  Add the feta, lightly mixing so as not to completely break up the cheese.
  3. When the pasta is al dente, drain and put back into pot.  Add all the ingredients from the bowl.  Stir to combine.
  4. Pour into a baking dish prepared with non stick spray.  I use a 4-quart or 11″ X 13″ baking dish.
  5. Spray a large piece of tin foil with non-stick spray and cover baking dish tightly, crimping edges and corners to keep the moisture in.
  6. Bake 30-45 minutes.


Zucchini Casserole with Feta Cheese

Saturday mornings will usually find me at the Swap Shop with my father, affectionately called “Jungle Jack” or “JJ”  by his grandchildren instead of Granddad or Granddaddy.  We started going on our adventures about two years ago, Dad really needed to get out of the house and I wanted to spend more time with him.  He’s 89…and fabulous.  We love the Swap Shop.  At this place you can get just about anything for your home or toolbox.  Dad was looking for batteries and I was checking out the wicked looking hunting knives piled up there in front of him.   Even in their sheaths they scared me.  Machetes, guitars, meat cleavers, playing cards, sewing kits, rat traps, calculators, house coats, nails, outside paella pans… you can get it ALL here.  We have a little routine, the same every Saturday, beginning where we park.  Always the same area and as we walk in, I always pull the old lady cart, we play “Pick a Car”.  Pretty self-explanatory.  After dodging the cars pulling in, I’ll ask, “Hey, Dad.  You want to see your Syrian friend?”  “Yeah,  yeah!  Good morning, my friend!”  And after a quick fist bump, too much bacteria shaking hands, they launch into a discussion on the unrest in Syria.  This Saturday Dad bought two packages of socks from his Syrian friend, who cut him a deal and shaved $2.00 off each pair.  When Dad protested, the Syrian said, “No, no!  Don’t worry.  I’ll get it back from the next guy!”  Our next stop is always “the bird man”.  His wife passed away a few months ago and for the first time I noticed a middle-aged bird groupie camped out on a folding chair in his booth.  Who’d a thunk?  “The bird man” had a girl friend.  We looked at the chicks, fighting cocks, (yes, they’re illegal), parrots, finches, love birds, it just goes on and on. The bird man even has freshly laid eggs from his farm in one of those mini fridges.  Dozens and dozens of them.  JJ picked up some supplies, “the bird seed looked good today!”, and off we went to see “the Haitian lady”, another kindred spirit.  Dad gets finger bananas from her and I get fresh mint, flat leaf parsley and scallions.  She’s beautiful and constantly flashing brilliant white smiles to all who pass by.  Known for wearing a red bandana and showing off the gap between her two front teeth, without fail she gives Dad a crushing embrace.  This past weekend he said, “Jesus! She even got her hair in my mouth!”  I know he secretly likes all this attention.  At this point we’ve crossed from the far west side of the Swap Shop to the far east and now we’re going to double back, cutting through the kiddie rides.  The rides aren’t set up yet; teenagers in their bright yellow uniform shirts are lining up bumper cars, hosing down the walkways, taking inventory of tickets and generally straightening up.  I like this long walk back…we shout instead of talk, the salsa’s just blaring out of the overhead speakers.  It’s kind of sad and tired looking but it’s part of our adventure so I appreciate it.  Somewhere along that walk Dad will say, “Listen.  I’m going to go see my Mexican friend.  I need some papaya and I want two kiwis.  Are you going to see your Tall friend?”  “I am.”  “Okay.  I’ll meet you by the orchids.  I want to talk to my Portuguese friend about his potting medium. ”  And off we go.

This week, from my Tall friend, I scored 5 or 6 pounds of blood-red tomatoes, 7 zucchini, 3 eggplants, one gorgeous bundle of radishes with the tops still on, a large bunch of cilantro and 6 huge yellow-skinned onions.  I spent $15.00.  Walking out, we passed more vegetable and fruit stands, sugar cane and cane juice stands.  Dad and I looked at each other and when our eyes met, we smiled.  It was a happy morning for both of us!

Zucchini Casserole with Feta Cheese

  • Servings: 4-6 as an entrée
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 7-8 washed zucchini, grated using large holes of box grater
  • 1 large onion or 2 bunches of scallions, finely chopped
  • 3 cups fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
  • 2 cups flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • 2 cups low-fat, low moisture grated mozzarella (optional, but I like it!)
  • 2 cups feta, crumbled by your own little hands
  • 1 1/2 cups egg whites or 5 eggs or any combination
  • freshly cracked black pepper
  1. Pre-heat oven to 375°.
  2. Spray 9 X 13 pan with non-stick spray.
  3. In a clean, linen dish towel, place 1/2 grated zucchini.  Gather sides of dish towel and wring moisture out of zucchini.  Do the same with the other half.
  4. Combine all ingredients except 1/2 cup mozzarella, if you choose to use that cheese.
  5. Mix ingredients well and pour into prepared baking dish.
  6. Scatter remaining mozzarella over dish, if using.
  7. Bake for 45-60 minutes or until bubbly on top.


Tomato, Zucchini and Potato Casserole

The past few days have been overcast, windy and downright cool in South Florida.  I can’t seem to get warm.  I cringe to think what my stylish and stunning Godgirl would say if she saw me.  That maybe James’ sweatpants from high school were only for people who sweat?  That white ankle socks in my fleece-lined moccasins weren’t the sexiest look to rock right now?  Or, maybe, just maybe, sweatshirt + sweatpants = balloon person?  People, I can honestly tell you she would not be that generous.  However, learning that I was about to prepare one of her favorites, she would make a quick about-face and lovingly say, “That’s all right, Yaya.  Just don’t go out.  Anywhere.  Can I have a piece of tomato, please?”  Love that girl.  Brutal with a capital “B” but absolutely gorgeous.  And she will agree that this casserole is just the dish to take the chill off the house and warm your bones.  It’s great as a main dish since we all seem to be eating less and less meat.  Served with crunchy, whole grain bread it’s a beautiful thing.  This dish can be dressed up a million different ways.  You can use zucchini, yellow squash or a combination of both, as I’m doing tonight. The squash can be sliced or grated. The dish holds up quite well with sliced potatoes or without.  Peeled or not peeled.  Oregano, herbs of Provence or basil are all terrific.  Parmesan, feta, romano, kefalotiri, Gruyere, just about any sharp cheese works well.  I like a combination of cheeses using mostly feta, sometimes all feta or with a scattering of mozzarella.  If you use feta, you don’t need to invest in cheese imported from Greece.  When you use it to bake,  the cheese’s sharpness and flavor changes so it’s hard sometimes to tell the difference between grocery store and the imported stuff that cost one eye and someone’s firstborn.  I like to bake or cook with Vigo brand feta in brine, one single block.  I wouldn’t give my sweet dog, Pericles, that crumbled stuff, never mind that fat-free junk.  If you buy the cheap or already crumbled feta you’ll definitely taste a difference.  Don’t do it.  This dish is good hot, room temperature or cold. And, of course, the fact that the dish contains tomatoes makes it what?  Better the next day.  Oh, yay for us.  My little sister stopped by the other day, she loves this stuff, so I gave her a container to take home.  She was so happy.  Off she went to pick up one of the Tinies, (there are two), at school.  She pulled up and got into the pick-up queue and waited. And waited.  She figured she’d just look… because it’s not as though she had a plastic fork or anything else.  Then she just wanted to taste it.  Just a taste.  So she did.  Then she wanted more.  So with her fingers she ate the casserole.  All of it.  And then, she said when she was finished, she threw her head back and drank the juice straight out of the container. In the pick-up line.  We laughed and laughed.  And, by the way, I AM leaving the house tonight in my ugly outfit to go to class so don’t look too closely.  Okay.   I’m leaving for class and I changed from sweatshirt to a stylish UNC fleece hoodie, lost the socks and the mocs and have on running shoes and all my jewelry.  Perfect lipstick is in place.  Baby steps, people, baby steps.

Tomato, Zucchini and Potato Casserole

  • Servings: 6 as the main course, 8-10 as a side
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • approximately 20 ripe plum tomatoes, sliced lengthwise
  • 6 or 7 medium redskin potatoes, sliced 1/8″ thick
  • 5 or 6 zucchini or yellow squash or combination of both
  • 2 or 3 onions, peeled and sliced in 1/8″ thick quarters (peel, half lengthwise, half again lengthwise without cutting through root end and slice away!)
  • 16 oz. cheese, shredded or crumbled
  • roughly 3 tablespoons dried oregano or herb of your choice
  • 1/4-1/2 cup good olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Pre-heat oven to 350°

  1. Coat a 9″X13″ dish or pan with nonstick spray and using 1/2 of ingredients, lay down a layer of potatoes, if you’re using them.  If not, start with 1/2 of the squash. Scatter salt and pepper, then continue layering with 1/2 of the onions, then tomatoes, cheese and herbs.
  2. Drizzle with 1/2 of olive oil and continue layering other half ending with tomatoes, cheese and herbs.  Drizzle with remaining olive oil and oregano, salt and pepper to taste.  Bake for 45 minutes ’til golden and bubbly. I sound just like Dolly.  You can half this recipe and freeze the other one.  To bake the casserole frozen, put it in a cold oven, covered with tin foil and bake an extra half hour.  The last 10-15 minutes remove foil to brown.



In our house during the winter months, Friday nights mean one thing.  Homemade pizza for my family and lots of brown likker for me.  My husband and son are Greek Orthodox and years ago requested that I not serve meat on Friday so they could take communion on Sunday.  Okay.  I can do that. To honor their request, I began making pizza every Friday night, salsa or classic rock blaring from the kitchen radio. I love the Allman Brothers.  The kitchen door’s always open since you have to jack your oven up to at least 450° and it gets some kind of hot down here in South Florida.  And on the counter, on a pretty little napkin, will be a faceted, crystal DOF with 6 or 7 ice cubes cracking and popping around two fingers of brown.  My, how I love that stuff.  Anyway, it’s Friday, so before I begin pouring, and you know I will, let’s talk pie.  Pizza dough is quite simple if you allow yourself enough time and space.  The dough is versatile.  I use several different types of flour from all-purpose to whole wheat to white whole wheat depending on my mood or what I have on hand. If you choose a heavier flour you need to make a few adjustments.  First, I never use just whole wheat.  The end result is heavier than a door stop.  The ratio I use is equal parts, 1-1. The exception is white whole wheat. I’m using it tonight and I’ll use a full 3 cups. I think King Arthur makes an exceptional product and you can find it at all leading grocery stores.  I make the dough first since it needs a good 1 1/2 hour rising time so while it’s rising in a warm corner, I can keep on working.  I use one of two different kinds of sauce.  My red sauce consists of tomato puree, salt and pepper.  What I don’t use, I freeze.  If I choose fresh tomatoes I add draining time.  After they’ve been chopped finely, I drop them into a colander in the sink, sprinkle with just a little bit of salt and go on prepping my toppings.  Tonight I’ve decided on chopped plum tomatoes with shredded fresh basil, grated mozzarella, slivered onion and turkey pepperoni.  I know. That’s meat. But with the Greek festival coming up Jimmy doesn’t always make it to communion especially if he has a festival meeting on Sunday and he always does.  And James is back at school in North Carolina.  Go Heels.  Back to toppings. I love chopped tomatoes, a sprinkle of fresh dill, crumbled feta, chopped Kalamata olives, a little scattered mozzarella,  some cooked, drained spinach and a swath of good olive oil.  Remember, cut all vegetables a uniform thickness and take comfort in knowing the combination of pizza toppings is infinite. P.S. Mint is outrageous with sautéed mushrooms, roasted garlic and grated fontina. I’m just sayin’.




  • Servings: 2-12 inch pizzas
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Pre-heat oven 450°, 500° if it goes that high

  • Sauce:
  • 2 cups tomato puree
  • salt and pepper to taste or
  • Fresh:
  • 8-10 ripe plum tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoons olive oil
  •  fresh basil finely chopped, to taste
  • salt and pepper


  • 3 cups flour, your combination of all-purpose, whole wheat etc.
  • 1 cup water at 115°
  • 1 packet yeast or 2 1/4 tsp yeast
  •  2 tablespoons olive oil


Toppings: any of the following

  • fresh mozzarella
  • crumbled feta
  • grated fontina
  • zucchini slices
  • fresh tomato slices
  • kalamata olives
  • sautéed mushrooms
  • feta cheese
  • kefalotiri cheese
  • mizithra cheese
  • spinach
  • onion slivers, sautéed
  • freshly basil, chopped
  • fresh mint, chopped
  • fresh dill, chopped
  • fresh thyme leaves, chopped
  • hot pepper flakes
  • the ubiquitous bagged shredded mozzarella
  • turkey pepperoni (fabulous. tastes exactly the same as conventional but not greasy)
  • turkey sausage, cooked and crumbled
  1. Combine ingredients for tomato layer and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, combine 1 cup flour with yeast and warmed water and mix well. Add olive oil, mix well and add rest of flour. After mixing in bowl until incorporated, turn on to counter and knead until silky and smooth…5-8 minutes. Coat with a little olive oil, return to bowl, cover and put in warm corner to rise for 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
  3. While dough is rising, prepare sauce of choice and cut any vegetable or herbs for toppings.
  4. When dough has doubled, punch down (yeah. hit it.) and divide into two or more parts. Whatever strikes your fancy and let rest for another 15 minutes.
  5. Dust baking sheet or pizza paddle with cornmeal and shape the dough by flouring lightly and flattening the dough with your finger tips and the heels of your hands. Shape into disks, stretch and flatten to desired thickness.  Don’t worry if the dough tears, just pinch back into shape and keep on going.  Shake baking sheet occasionally to keep dough from sticking and add cornmeal as needed.
  6. Add sauce or tomatoes, toppings and slide into oven.
  7. Bake 10-15 minutes depending on toppings.  Just look at it . You’ll know when it’s ready. Slice and enjoy!