Cherry and Sour Cherry Preserves: Kerasi or Vyssino Glyko

This is one of the easiest spoon sweets to make. Traditionally in Greece every July all cooks used to make Vissino (sour cherry) preserves to serve with ice cream or yogurt throughout the year.

 

Adapted from my book The Foods of the Greek Islands.

 

The cornerstone of Greek sweets are the preserves made with the fruits of every season.

Each home has several different jars of fruit in the pantry, and guests are offered a teaspoon with a glass of water as a welcome to the house.

I know that fresh sour cherries are not the easiest fruit for most people to get, and their season is so short, so I suggest you make the preserves with perokerasa (Rainier cherries) instead.

Unfortunately, the true color of the Rainier cherries preserves is a quite unattractive murky yellow, so you are better off adding a few drops of red food coloring.  Instead, I prefer to boil a red beet with the cherries, a trick I learned from Tunisian cooks.

 

Makes 3 cups (more…)

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Strapatsada: Tomato and Olive Oil Scrambled Eggs

We called it strapatsada, from the Italian uova strapazzate (scrambled eggs); it was the comfort food my mother cooked for me and my sister on summer evenings. In the winter I often make it with the cherry tomatoes from the greenhouses of southern Crete, which are quite tasty, althout a far cry from summer tomatoes. 

Last week I decided to fry the tomatoes, and instead of mixing in the eggs, I nestled them in the pan, and after 2-3 minutes, I moved the pan to a 200 C oven and baked for 5-8 minutes, until the eggwhite was opaque. We enjoyed it enormously with fresh crusty bread. 

 

Plain scrambled eggs are not a common Greek dish, but a huge egg and tomato scramble, as you might find in a Greek diner in America, is still a national institution. Some people add crumbled feta in the pan, but I much prefer to sprinkle it at the end; I enjoy my strapatsada with toasted bread or with olive-oil-fried potato slices, a heavenly combination!

Serve with toasted multi-grain, whole-wheat bread and a green salad, or with roast vegetables I often serve it with toasted bulgur pilaf, but simple sliced potatoes fried in olive oil are still my favorite complement.

 

See also the Scrambled Eggs with Fava beans which is another somewhat different, yet equally delicious combination. 

 

Menemen, the Turkish version, has diced peppers, both sweet and hot, along with tomatoes and chopped scallions. The Provençale bruillade à l’Arlésienne (scrambled eggs from Arles) has grated zucchini, tomatoes and garlic (see variations). Much like classic scrambled eggs, strapatsada needs to be soft and creamy, not dry or too watery. I use my own tomato confit or add a few sun-dried tomatoes to the pan to get the intense tomato flavor I remember from my childhood. 

 

 

Serves 2-4 as a main course, 5-6 as part of a meze spread (more…)

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Winter Luxuries

The last days of January found me in Athens, with José Andrés, the renowned chef-humanitarian, his wife Tichi, and Zaytinya’s concept chef Michael Costa. We strolled around the city tasting dishes and sipping wines and cocktails at some of the most talked-about restaurants and bars.

 

See José Andrés’ Athens list

We had compiled quite a few suggestions, but José surprised me when he chose Birdman, the Japanese-inspired Pub, for his fist afternoon bites and drinks in Athens. I had proposed we try a few cocktails there later in the night, since it was already past four, but this didn’t stop José from ordering most of the truly wonderful seafood and meat bites chef Ari Vezenes cooks on live fire. He loved the chicken liver and heart, even the Iberico Katsu that I was afraid would not meet his high standards… (more…)

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The Festive, Fragrant Olive Oil Bread from Provence

It is an old Mediterranean tradition to have several sweets on display during the end of the year holidays. Part of the traditional Christmas table in Provence this delicious olive oil bread is supposed to be torn into pieces with the hands and never cut with a knife.

From mid-December and up until after the New Year we usually keep on the festive table nuts and dried fruit, plus melomakarona and kourabiedes.  

 

BREAD Pompe S

BREAD Pompe cut S

Wikipedia refers also to the Sephardic Jewish tradition to serve various nuts, candied and dried fruits during Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year.  Catalans and Armenians share similar traditions. (more…)

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Yogurt and Olive Oil Cake with Citrus Fruits and Syrup

Light and aromatic, it is the perfect dessert that my mother used to make.

For the New Year I decided to dress it up, sprinkling with diced, caramelized citrus peels and pistachios; I also cut the year’s numbers on tangerine peels that I simmered in syrup before placing on the cake. 

See more New Year’s Cake recipes HERE and HERE

 

 

Bake the cake at least a day before you plan to serve it so the flavors  have time to develop. Cakes are best the day after!  

In our family it was simply called Tou Yiaourtiou (the one with yogurt), to distinguish with another, more elaborate festive dessert my mother and aunts prepared with store-bought lady-finger cookies and a heavy margarine-based cream –butter and heavy cream were not a common ingredient in Greece in my childhood years. 

 

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Only recently I realized that this, ubiquitous urban Greek dessert is the Gateau aux Yaourt the simplest French cake, the first one kids bake as the portions are measured in the yogurt pot. Obviously my family, as most other bakers in Athens, got the recipe from Tselementes’ book. He obviously copied the French cake, but substituted margerine (!) for the olive oil, calling it Yiaourtopita (yogurt pie) a name that many bakers use today.  

Whenever I have, I use lemons from my garden, or our local tangerines and oranges that are wonderfully aromatic. I suggest you seek organic fruits for this and my other recipes. 

 

See also my Orange, Lemon or Tangerine Olive Oil Cake which I make pulsing the whole citrus fruit, not just zesting it.  

 

 

For a 9-inch (23 cm) round or square pan

(more…)

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