Butternut Squash Soup with Yogurt

This is the soup I make often varying the ingredients slightly –with more onion or leek, sometimes adding chopped, dried mushrooms instead of the chicken broth. The topping also may vary; once I made a kind of caper-scallion-chard pesto instead of the fried peas.

Just toasted pine nuts with chopped cilantro are also a fine, simpler topping for this comforting winter soup.

 

Serves 6-8  (more…)

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Bringing Crete to Napa

We Greeks are thrilled that recently there seems to be a trend leading people back to the honest, no-frills, unadorned dishes that our grandmothers used to cook. Foreign visitors, especially those who are genuinely interested in food, often go to great lengths trying to find the long-forgotten, plain, everyday home cooking; and this is what we demonstrated at the Worlds of Flavor conference held last November in the renovated, wonderful Copia, in Napa Valley.

 

It was a foggy, bitingly cold morning as we stood at the back garden of Copia, in Napa.  With chefs Yiannis Tsivourakis and Dimitrios Mavrakis we had come for this fall’s Worlds of Flavor to present dishes from Crete to food professionals and chefs from all over the world. That morning we were giving our last workshop and tasting and had prepared a few more dishes in an open fire. As we were grilling and plating the stuffed calamari, the sunflower-seed-crusted cheese, and the smoky eggplant-pepper salad we almost forgot the humid cold, experiencing such warmth and genuine interest from the twenty or so participants. They tasted, expressed their gratitude, and asked relevant questions, making us proud and somewhat puzzled that the peasant-inspired, simple foods we learned from our ancestors were so enthusiastically received by savvy professionals.

 

See HERE the Video of our Ecolab presentations

 

The previous day at eight in the morning we were scheduled to deliver our big cooking demonstration at the Ecolab –the large, state-of-the-art amphitheater of Copia. We were somewhat afraid that very few if anybody would wake up at the crack of dawn to come see us. As we were being ‘wired’ with our microphones in the back room, all three of us were stressed and trying to concentrate and do exactly what we were supposed to do –show the slides, cook and plate our dishes, and especially keep the timing as it was planned. We had the feeling that we were fussy and nervous for no particular reason; besides the cameras that recorded the presentations, we didn’t expect more than a handful of people in the audience. Anne Mc Bride started to introduce me and as I stepped toward the podium and faced the audience I almost screamed seeing the vast amphitheater completely packed! Every single seat was occupied; there were even people standing in the back.

 

 

Chef Yiannis started the demo cooking the delicious olive-oil-fried snails with rosemary and vinegar.  Then he prepared my favorite tomato-braised chestnuts with pearl onions and mushrooms, a dish originally cooked in the villages high up in the rugged mountains above Chanea, on western Crete.

 

(more…)

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Chocolates, Chicken Liver Pâté, and other Last Minute Edible Gifts

Your friends, but you also, will love these simple chocolates!

They are an ideal gift for dinner parties; wines and drinks are also fine but flowers are a pain for hosts, we think, as they force them to stop everything else and search for 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 again.

This time, as I knew I would have to prepare a few gift boxes, I doubled the recipe, melting 3 pounds of bitter-sweet chocolate, in two separate bowls, to make the melting process shorter. Costas and I spread the mixture in two pans and left them to solidify overnight. If we had cut them a bit earlier, say two hours after putting them in the pans, 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. (more…)

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“Mallorcas” Sweet Tsoureki Buns

Adapted from the Puerto Rican ‘Mallorcas, the slightly sweet breakfast buns I found in the festive pages of SAVEUR magazine.

 

“Fluffy, eggy, buttery, sweet, coiled like a snail’s shell, and generously dusted with powdered sugar, the pan de Mallorca is named for its land of origin, in Spain. They are delicious on their own, or split and turned into sweet-and-savory ham, egg, and cheese sandwiches,” the magazine’s introduction explained.

 

The dough is very similar to challah and the traditional Greek tsoureki,  –the sweet brioche-like festive breads we bake for Christmas and Easter. In my version I substituted light olive oil for the butter, and used whole eggs, instead of just egg yolks, then I decided to brush the dough rectangle with my Seville orange marmalade before rolling and cutting the buns. I also placed them one roll next to the other, like cinnamon rolls, and I wish I had managed to make all the buns roughly the same size…

(Photo from Saveur magazine

 

Makes 6 large buns            (more…)

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Pumpkin, Cranberry, Ginger, and Pistachio Cake

Adapting Julia Moskin’s wonderful All-in-one Holiday Bundt Cake I baked this simpler version using olive oil instead of the butter –as I usually do—and pistachios instead of pecans. I omitted the chopped apple, using a bit more mashed, freshly baked butternut squash.

 

“This holiday recipe comes from the baking expert Dorie Greenspan. She calls it “all-in-one” because it includes elements from both Thanksgiving and Christmas: pumpkin, nutmeg, cranberries and ginger. It’s really the perfect dessert for either feast, or any occasion in between,” writes Moskin in her introduction.

 

 

Both our friends, who were with us this past weekend, as well as Costas, who loves all kinds of moist and nutty cakes, agreed that this is a real treat!

It is very easy to make, especially if you bake it in two long cake pans, as I did, instead of the more elaborate but tricky Bundt pan.

No glaze is necessary, but if you happen to have some lemon curd it is a lovely addition!

 

Makes 2 long Cake Pans (more than 12 servings) (more…)

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