Galaxidi Kourambiedes: a New, Very Old Festive Treat

A more than 200-year old recipe I got from Frosso Patiniotis, my very lively 96-year old aunt. She bakes every year these quite unusual, fragrant kourambiedes –shortbread-almond cookies– a few weeks before Christmas. I may have eaten them before, but I don’t seem to have noticed how very different they were from the ones I get from Tsourtis’ bakery, on Kea’s main town.

See also my previous recipe.

 

Frosso gave me the recipe she had gotten from Mrs Dandoura, mother of her class-mate and best friend Chrysouli who recently passed. Mrs Dandoura had learned to make kourambiedes from her mother and grandmother. They came from a wealthy, shipping Galaxidi family, a town 15 klm southwest of Delphi that had flourished in the 18th and through the 19th century as a result of maritime trade and commercial exchanges with the West due to its exquisite natural port.

 

Calculating the generations that baked these festive cookies, we concluded that the recipe must be at least 200 years old.  Thus kourambiedes were not, as the Greek version of Wikipedia cites “brought by prosfyges (refugees),”  the Anatolian Greek population who fled after the defeat in the Greco-Turkish War (1919–1922) from Smyrna (Izmir) and other parts of Turkey. Prosfyges did, indeed, introduce quite a few special foods to Palaioelladites —the local Greeks– but certainly kourambiedes were already part of the local festive table in many parts of the country.  

 

Probably the word kourabies (plural kourabiedes) derives from Qurabiya a Persian and/or Arabic word with many variations, used for similar short-bread cookies throughout the Eastern Mediterranean and north Africa. Often sprinkled or with the addition of rose or citrus-flower water, I have not seen any version of these cookies that contained so many spices, and I just imagine that the cosmopolitan Galaxidi merchants were maybe inspired by the festive European/Grerman cookies. But this is my assumption, as I am also baking Pfeffernüsse and Lebkuchen these days…

 

Paula Wolfert in her wonderful 1988 book ‘Paula Wolfert’s World of Food‘ has a version of kourabiedes she calls ‘Greek Butter-Almond Cookies’ and over the years she kept telling me how amazing they were. As she wrote in the headnote she served them in her wedding, as many Greek families do.  

 

 

Makes about 30 large or 40 small cookies. (more…)

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Vietnamese-Inspired Baked Chicken with Potatoes and Squash

In an older recipe, I had stayed close to our Mediterranean traditions borrowing ideas from North Africa and the Middle East to propose the Rosemarry, Preserved Lemon, Garlic, and Orange Chicken.

Now I wend a long way east, taking inspiration from a very interesting recipe in Serious Eats.

“There’s a lot going on in the marinade, but one of the standouts—arguably even the key ingredient—is anchovy-based Vietnamese fish sauce, or nuoc mam,” write Emily and Matt Clifton. “Lime, ginger, and fish sauce add bold, bright, deep flavor to chicken,” they point out.

 

 

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find the particular fish sauce they mention, so I used the standard Thai fish sauce (nam pla) available at the Asian food stores in Greece. Limes are, again, an imported fruit that we can only get on Kea in the summer, when bars and the more sophisticated restaurants use it. I only had the local fragrant lemons, which, I must admit, are quite different in flavor; I decided to combine lemon and orange in my recipe.

I didn’t discard the very flavorful Vietnamese-inspired marinade but used it as the sauce to bake both the chicken as well as the accompanying vegetables, potatoes, some of our last garden peppers, and squash, drizzling with olive oil, as I usually do.

I think you will like this deep-flavored, easy chickenand vegetable dish as much as Costas and I did…

 

Serves 4  (more…)

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Fassoláda: the Traditional Bean soup, Revisited

The epitome of comforting, winter meal for Greeks, fassoláda is warming and filling. Prepared with the excellent ingredients from northern Greece that are now available, it becomes even more enticing!

 

I originally wrote and posted this seven years ago, as I was going through my first-grade school book published right after the Second World War. In it there was a description of fassoláda (bean soup), which was often referred to as ‘the Greek national dish’ in the old days. Surprisingly, the version in my book had no tomato! I was shocked, as fassoláda is always made with tomatoes as far as I can remember, but probably in those days canned tomatoes as well as tomato paste were not yet a common ingredient in all households. See also how the kitchen and stove looked in most parts of the country the 1950ies…

 

My revised recipe below is flavored with the wonderful Piperokama, the dried, smoked, hot peppers of Florina that our friend Naoumidis prepares.  I am told that it will be soon available in the US, as are his other deeply flavored roasted peppers which you can order  HERE and also HERE

 

We love to eat fassolàda with feta cheese, but also with canned sardines in olive oil or any smoked fish.

A simple bowl of olives, and/or taramosalata is the custom during the days of Lent, preceding Christmas.

 

Serves 4-6


(more…)

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Bebinca: Indian Sweet Potato Pudding/Cake

The recipe, by Mayukh Sen, was published in the NY Times Cooking, in a piece he wrote about chef Nik Sharma. “The lightly sweet pudding cake is an ideal fall dessert — a far less stressful alternative to a more labored pie,” Sen writes.

The mild taste of this unusual sweet is certainly a wonderful complement to the spicy Indian dishes; for my version I love to add crystalized ginger to give it a slight kick.

 

 

Mayukh Sen notes that Mr. Sharma riffs on a traditional dessert from the Indian state of Goa, using a base of coconut milk, eggs and sweet potatoes that are roasted and then puréed, perfumed with nutmeg. “…the addition of maple syrup is a distinctly American touch. (Mr. Sharma likes to make this for Thanksgiving.) Be sure to leave time for the bebinca to cool and set — at least 6 hours in the refrigerator, but preferably overnight,” Sen writes.

 

 

Yield: 8 servings

 

 

(more…)

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Eggplant and Squash pie with Peper, Cumin, and Walnuts

This pie is a rif on Melitzanopita tis Dramas (eggplant pie from Drama) a wonderfully complex and delicious pie I learned to make years ago in this northern Greek town, and have published in my first cookbook, The Fooods of Greece.

I though of adding squash and bell pepper to the eggpants as I had no leeks to sweeten and add color to the stuffing. This semi-open colorful pie/tart is the perfect main course for a vegetarian Thanksgiving or for any festive fall and winter meal.   

 

In the original pie of Drama sauteed leeks and eggplants are flavored with plenty of agad graviera cheese, and scented with cumin. Walnuts add a meaty taste to this delicious pie that I have baked on many occasions, both at home and also at various meals I have cooked over the years in the US. I often bake a rolled eggplant pie, as it is easier to cut and serve, especially if one uses commercial frozen phyllo, and not the wonderful home-rolled. 

 

 

Serves 10-12 (more…)

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