Melomakarona Tart with Fruit or Lemon

The Greek old-fashioned Christmas cookies are vegan because people ate them during the days of Lent that precede Christmas. You can use the dough –an olive-oil-shortcake– as a pie crust, filling it with cooked apples, quince, or other seasonal fruit. I particularly love to make a fragrant Lemon tart, using Lemon Curd, or your favorite lemon cream. 

No specific recipe needed. Use half the Melomakarona dough, and lay it on a parchment-paper- lined 9-inch pan. Bake in the center of the oven for about 20-25 minutes, let cool completely on a rack and then fill with your favorite Lemon Cream or with Lemon Curd and serve sprinkling with coarsely ground walnuts. 

To make a Quince or Apple Tart, fill the crust with poached quince or apples, using as an inspiration the filling from the Quince Rolls. You can also mix the poached fruit with Quince Preserves, and serve sprinkle liberally with walnuts. 

 

 

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Chocolate-Olive-oil-almond-and-ginger Cake

‘Eat olive oil and come tonight’ (Φάε λάδι κι έλα βράδι) as the old Greek saying commended, pointing out the lightness, as well as the aphrodisiac properties of our indispensable ingredient. Both our savory and sweet dishes and treats are better with olive oil, I think, and I am not alone; this truly sumptuous cake is based on Nigella Lawson’s popular recipe

 

 

The glaze is based on  Smitten Kitchen’s  vegan olive-oil chocolate cake, but I prefer to use honey instead of corn syrup. I love to top the cake with crystalized ginger, but you can use candied orange slices if you prefer. 

Serve with cream and fresh strawberries or sliced oranges, preferably the spectacular-looking blood oranges, if you can get them. 

 

 

For a 9-inch cake (more…)

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Quince, Raisin, and Walnut ‘Sharlotka’

As I wrote in our November Newsletter, Apple Sharlotka had become our favorite winter dessert. This “…labor-saving, timesaving and space-saving [cake]” is how author Darra Goldstein, author of  “Beyond the North Wind: Russia in Recipes and Lore” described sharlotka to Olga Massov, who wrote about it in the Washington Post.

This wonderful cake has become our go-to early winter treat and I was making it all the time.  To the apples I often added a cup of last year’s quince preserves, before making the new batch. Now that we have plenty of quince from our trees, I adapted Darra’s basic recipe for these fragrant fruit.

 

It takes a bit more time, since the quince need to be poached or slow-baked to soften, but the result is worth the extra effort, as you can attest if you try it…

 

For a 9-inch round cake –or equivalent square, or 1 large or 2 small loaves 

 

(more…)

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PAXIMADIA: barley biscuits’ past, present, and future…

 

I revisited paximadia last week because my friend Defne Koryürek from Ayvalık, on the other side of the Aegean, organized an e-workshop as part of the two-day interdisciplinary conference on Food Futures. She used my basic recipe for her lively presentation, and she invited me to take part and speak about the history and uses of paximadia, or peksimet as they call them in Turkey. It was a lovely experience that made me re-think paximadia as an ideal sustainable staple. It is time to revive the way our ancestors used this crunchy, twice-baked bread not just to accompany cheese and meze spreads –as I had suggested in the article I did for Eating Well magazine —   but also instead of pasta in broths and soups, and of course in salads.  

 

 

When, in the fifties, Ansel Keys and his colleagues studied the eating habits, the state of health, and life expectancy of various peoples in seven countries, they decided that the inhabitants of Crete were faring best of all. Paximadia (barley rusks) in those days were the staple food of the Cretans. But when their traditional eating habits became the model for the now famed Mediterranean diet, the barley biscuits were translated into “whole wheat bread” for the unaccustomed and refined Northern Europeans and Americans. Barley flour has now completely disappeared from the shelves of the supermarkets in big cities, and one can only find it in health food stores or at wholesale distributors of animal fodder. But on Kea as on other islands we can get a pound or two from the local bakeries which still bake the traditional hard and dark paximadia.

 

1-Barley-Paximadia

Paximadia–barley rusks–in various shapes from the Greek islands and Crete.

 

An old man from Mykonos told me that in the old days merchant ships preferred his island as a stopover because sailors loved to stock up on paximadia from the local bakeries made with a combination of barley and wheat flour. Similar biscuits are baked in most islands of the Aegean and the ones from Crete are still the most popular throughout Greece. One can get various kinds of Cretan paximadia in food stores and supermarkets. Although people belonging to the generation that traditionally fed on this kind of dried bread has either died or switched to more refined foods —like fluffy supermarket, crustless, sliced bread– there is a new generation of consumers who have tasted paximadia during their summer vacations in the islands and loved them. Once back in the city they started to look for them in their local bakeries, so now in most Athenian neighborhoods one can find darker or lighter paximadia, baked using mixtures containing more or less barley flour in addition to the wheat flour that makes lighter and crunchier biscuits, which need no soaking.

(more…)

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Leonidas’ Almond and Lemon “Cigars”

My late cousin Leonidas loved sweets, but he had health problems that meant he had to avoid butter and eggs. At some point, inspired by rolled baklava, he created these wonderfully simple, vegan crunchy, almond, and lemon phyllo rolls.

They are more like cookies than a real dessert dish, but they are dangerously addictive.

Leonidas used to bring them to our festive lunches and dinners, and he was proud to share the recipe with anyone who asked—and most people did. See at the bottom my savory variation, with cheese.

 

 

Makes about 85 pieces  (more…)

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