Melomakarona – Honey-Infused, Olive Oil, Orange and Spice Cookies

The traditional, fragrant, old-fashioned Christmas cookies are my favorites! They are vegan because people ate them during the days of Lent that precede Christmas. I have updated my mothers recipe, adding ground nuts in the dough.

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I think you will find these cookies irresistible. If you manage to save them for later, they will get even better the next days.They keep for up to 1 month so you may want to double the recipe, especially if you bake melomakarona with friends, as we usually do.

 

Makes about 45 cookies

 

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Baked Giant Beans with Garlic and Dill (Gigantes Skordati)

In this, somewhat unusual dish, the beans have a lovely sweet, creamy and garlicky taste, scented with oregano and plenty of dill.

Photo by MANOUSOS DASKALOGIANNIS 

I got the recipe from the North of Greece and I particularly love to bake it in the winter, but also all year round, as I am fed up with the common baked gigantes in tomato sauce that all taverns serve.

From my first book The Foods of Greece

 

Serves 6 

 

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Veal Stew with Quinces (Moschari Kydonato)

This is my favorite winter stew. Quinces are equally delicious in savory and sweet dishes, and Greek islanders cook all kinds of meats with quince.

On Chios, they pair quinces with free-range chicken; on Crete, with lamb; and on Lesbos, with veal. As with most stews I make on Kea, our local veal shank is my first choice; but I also make pork with quince. I give the meat extra flavor by tying the cores of the fruit in cheesecloth and adding them to the cooking broth.

The combination of meat with quinces is not new. In the Roman cookery of Apicius we find similar stews, and quinces have been quite common in old traditional Greek cooking. (more…)

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More Fig Jam Experiments

After reading about the aromatic and complex fig jam we created three years ago, scroll down for a description of the plain, chunky new version Costas and I made last week. Fig Jam 2 bowl & basket S

Figs purple & green SI used to not particularly like fig jam; seemed too sweet and one-dimensional. But we always have too many figs so, a few years ago, for the first time, I decided to create my own different version of this jam, adding equal amounts of figs and lemons –my favorite fruit– making a Fig and Lemon Jam. I thought it came out quite nice, but Costas wasn’t impressed. He loves sweets much more than I do, and he longed for the thick fig jam his mother used to make in Volos, Central Greece.   Fig Jam 2 bowl SFigs: Preserving Summer’s Bounty the piece I did for the Atlantic in 2009 will tell you more about this luscious fruit! (more…)

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A Pie-like Stuffed Bread with Broccoli

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As it often happens with my garden’s vegetables, I forgot to cut the broccoli when it was still hard and firm. Now it had opened and was soon going to fill with tiny yellow flowers, but I knew that this didn’t mean it wasn’t still delicious. I separated the stems from the very tender tops, and cooked them in boiling water for about ten minutes; I added the tops and cooked for another four minutes, then drained everything through a fine colander.

There was quite a bit of green mash at the bottom of the colander, from the over-ripe florets. I diced the stems, added the green mash and decided to use it as stuffing for breads. I was inspired by Scacciata con i Broccoli, a Sicilian stuffed focaccia from Catania originally made with the purple, very flavorful broccoli that was once the only kind we had in Greece. (more…)

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A Rainy Clean Monday!

I did this post two years ago but the weather this weekend seems very similar. Only our peas are not yet ready for picking, and their blossoms are white. But I guess I will cook and bake similar dishes. 

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Kathari Deftera (Clean Monday), the first day of Lent is traditionally celebrated out of doors. During the long weekend people travel to the country to eat, drink, fly kites and dance to the tunes of live bands provided by various municipalities. But this year it seems it will be a rainy or quite windy day, a welcome change for us after a long period of sunny and dry weather, but the city people who will come to enjoy the island will probably feel miserable…

Yesterday the rain and the wind scattered the almond blossoms everywhere. 

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Two years ago the moving feast had happened later, in March.

Just before the rain {two years ago} Costas and I gathered the first sweet peas from the garden; the wind had broken a large branch which we decided to use as decoration for our humble table. I briefly sautéed the peas with garlic, and dressed some of my pre-cooked beans with spicy ladolemono–lemon and olive oil with chopped scallions and Maras pepper. This year our lettuces are prolific and we share them with friends.

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Our Fragrant Bitter Oranges

With the fruit, besides my usual marmalade, I make curd substituting lemon with bitter orange juice, and also a fragrant, Campari-like drink (Vin apéritif à l’orange amère) inspired by a recipe from Provence. 

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Fifteen years ago, we planted two navel-orange trees in the southwestern corner of the garden. One is still around in a pitiful state and we have yet to get one full-grown orange from it. The other almost dried up, ‘burned’ by a cold January wind; but grew back from its un-grafted part. Now it thrives as a bitter orange tree, one of the most common, somewhat overlooked trees in Greece, that line the sidewalks in Athens and other big cities.

Our modest tree gives us an abundance of fragrant bitter oranges each winter and I am always on a lookout for recipes to use them up, besides my usual marmalade, of which I make loads every season. This marmalade has become my staple ingredient; I add it to cakes, creams, and breads, both sweet and savory, often omitting sugar, especially in my fresh cheese and yogurt summer desserts. (more…)

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An Unusual Vegan Olive Pie

Around mid-January, as the new olives are almost ready, I try to find ways to use-up the olives of years passed.

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This fragrant Eliopita,  with an unusual, delicious, easy dough of olive oil and orange juice, is the first thing that comes to mind. It is much simpler than the common olive breads, and much more enticing. The original recipe was given to me many years ago by Zoe Evangelou whom I had met at my friend Roxani Matsa’s winery in Kantza. I made the pie several times, and included it in one of my early Greek books. Later, the recipe was revised by  Vali Manouelides, another friend, who instead of the original large loaf, divided the dough and filling to shape smaller logs that were easier to cut and serve as finger food. (more…)

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Chocolates and other Edible Gifts for Yourself and your Loved Ones

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They are appreciated, I think, and in any event, they are less of a problem when you bring to a friend’s dinner party, since flowers are a pain for the hosts forcing them to stop everything and try to find a vase…   

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As soon as the weather cools significantly I prepare my first batch of rustic chocolates. We keep them in a jar and we eat one or two pieces after lunch, offer to friends who drop by, or give them as gifts. When the jar is almost empty, I make more, exactly as I do with my savory crunchy cookies that I keep in a similar jar.

I published the basic recipe for the chocolates in my Mediterranean Vegetarian Feasts, since my friend Vicki Snyder insists that every cookbook, no matter what its subject, should include a chocolate dessert. But I have the habit of changing and enriching my recipes, even after I have published them, so here is my updated version of the very easy chocolates I make over and over. This time, as I anticipated preparing a few gift boxes, I doubled the recipe, melting 3 pounds of bitter-sweet chocolate, in two separate bowls, otherwise it takes too long for the pieces to melt. Costas and I spread the mixture in two pans and left them to harden overnight. If we had cut them after two hours the pieces would be even and square; but this time a few pieces crumbled as we cut the hard mass of chocolate with a large bread knife.

I also add pistachios to my Chicken Liver Pâté which is flavored with thyme, orange and brandy. I am sure your friends will appreciate a jar of this homemade pâté, which is an ideal appetizer, so I suggest you double the recipe.

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We also made quince preserves (page 236 in my book) and since we had extra quince from our trees, I cooked some in sweet wine with honey, as I describe in the recipe for the stuffing of the Quince Pie Rolls, minus the raisins. (more…)

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Quince and Mini-squash Stuffed with Wheat Berries, Nuts and Raisins

This is my suggestion for a glorious vegetarian main course. I bet that even avid meat-eaters will enjoy it. The combination of the sweet, mini squash with the tart quince is perfect!  For the stuffing I adapted the recipe for the Stuffed Quince I have in my Mediterranean Vegetarian Feasts (page 156). But I omitted the tomato sauce.  

The small squash can be an interesting substitute for quince in case you cannot get the fragrant old apple-like fruit, which is the epitome of our Mediterranean winter. I actually envy my American friends because they can get these absolutely fantastic mini butternut squash, or honey-nut-squash as they are called. They were developed by Michael Mazourek, a plant breeder at Cornell University, in collaboration with the visionary Dan Barber.

If you are going to stuff just the squash, I suggest you add some tart apple to the stuffing or spike its sweetness with pomegranate molasses. (more…)

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