Boozy, Delicious Fruitcake

With lots of dried fruits and nuts, this dense cake, adapted from Amanda Hesser’s Good Fruit Cake, comes out perfect because it is baked in a very low oven for about 1 ½ hours. Apparently, this is the secret to making a fruit cake that is not hard and chewy… and of course lots of good liqueur and/or brandy!

This is a dense fruitcake, full of flavor, that should be thinly sliced and enjoyed in moderation, maybe accompanied by cream, mascarpone, or thick yogurt. 

 

 

Makes 2 Fruitcakes

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Holiday Cookies: Traditional and Others…

Orange, cinnamon, and cloves are the main fragrances that pervade the kitchens around the world in the dark, winter days and long nights. Their sweet, enticing aromas set the mood for the upcoming holidays that mark the end of the year throughout most of the world.

 

 

Melomakarona, the traditional Greek, fragrant, honey-infused Christmas cookies are my favorites! They are vegan, because people ate them during the days of Lent that precede Christmas according to the Orthodox doctrines that some people follow, even if they are not religious. Now they are being rediscovered, as baking with olive oil has become trendy, and even the NYT published a version recently. I have slightly updated my mother’s recipe –which she had from her own mother– adding some ground nuts in the dough.

I think you will find these cookies irresistible, but 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.

An extra bonus of this aromatic but healthy dough is that you can use it as pie crust, filling it with cooked apples, quince, or make an irresistible lemony tart with just Lemon Curd as its filling. 

 

 

A recent favorite of ours is the old German Lebkuchen  which are fragrant with the enticing Lebkuchen Spice Mix.  It contains all kinds of spices, even ground coriander seeds, but strangely, no ginger! The blogger whose recipe I fam following, strangely calls it German Gingerbread Spice Mix, probably because she caters to Americans, for whom Lebkuchen is not a household name. My only addition to her recipe is an extra 2/3 cup finely ground almonds or almond meal because I don’t use the rice-paper wafers –difficult to find on our island—and wanted to make the dough somewhat thicker. Also, Costas and I prefer the cookies plain, or just drizzled with some bitter chocolate, so I skip the full dipping in chocolate the recipe calls for. (more…)

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Red Lentil Soup with Grains and Spicy Aromatic Oil

Variations on this heartwarming, vegan soup are infinite. The creamy red lentils regain their attractive color, which is lost when they are boiled alone, when they are cooked with carrots, tomato paste and plenty of Maraş pepper.

My recipe is inspired by the soups of Gaziantep, which often combine bulgur and/or chickpeas with the lentils.

 

Photo by PENNY DE LOS SANTOS  from my Mediterranean Vegetarian Feasts.     

 

The pulses in Turkey are usually cooked with lamb or beef bones to add body, and the soup is finished with aromatic-infused butter, though olive oil is an excellent alternative.

Vegetarians can make the soup more substantial by adding diced feta, as Costas and I do, or complement with grilled halloumi cheese.

 

 

Serves 6 to 8  (more…)

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Cabbage Salad in Orange-vinegar Dressing

Cabbage is associated with winter in Greece. “You can’t have tender, sweet cabbage before the winter cold,” a farmer in Kea told me one October morning. The trick to turn almost any cabbage into a good salad is to “knead” the finely shredded leaves with salt and lemon juice. Here, instead of lemon a combination of orange and white ‘balsamic’ vinegar is used. The cabbage and carrots wilt and shrink, becoming juicy and delicious.

I tasted this salad recently at Ourania’s Tavern, on Samos island, and was fascinated. Ourania, the owner and cook, told us that the longer you leave the salad in the fridge, the better it gets;  she was right,  of course. 

 

 

4 to 6 servings

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Fall in our Island Garden

The first rain on Kea confirmed the coming of our 21st fall on the island!

We were very grateful not only for the much-needed water, but for the comforting, cool  temperatures after a very hot summer.  We still have some vegetables, and hope for a few nice oranges, soon.

We started to get ripe, yet small fruit from the arbutus bush, and soon we will be harvesting the first oranges. 

The few, aromatic quinces we got are ripening in a basket, and are soon going to be used in meat and vegetarian dishes, also, of course in our cakes as well as in jams, and spoon sweets (fruit preserves).  

A low layer of green grass now covers the property, and our rose bushes are filled with tiny oblong red berries, and the big carob tree is filled with foul-smelling flowers buzzing with bees –an unexpected end-of-season treat for them. In Crete, where carob trees are ubiquitous in the rocky mountains, I heard that the densely-flavored carob honey is considered the best for melomakarona, the Christmas cookies.    

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