Apples Baked in Sweet Wine with Dried Fruits, and Spices

I remember the baked apples my mother used to make all the time, back when the fruit we got in Athens was not wonderful as Fuji apples are today. Costas who grew up in Volos, remembers the exquisite heirloom apples from Pelion he loved. They have now disappeared as the trees are grafted to uniformly produce big red apples with little taste or aroma.

Fuji are grown in Greece the last few years and they are by far the best –and more expensive.  For this simple, plant-based (vegan) dessert I loosely follow my mothers recipe.

 

Unlike northern Europeans and Americans we don’t add butter to baked apples. I would serve these as dessert, but I know that some people would like to compliment game, poultry or hearty winter meats with baked apples.  

 

6-7 Servings (more…)

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Chicken Soup Avgolemono

Egg-and-lemon-thickened chicken soup is the iconic, typically Greek variation on a much-loved, comforting, winter soup.

It is the traditional one-pot Christmas dish on Rhodes and other Dodecanese islands. Christmas in the Greek islands is not the big feast celebrated in the United States or northern Europe: Easter and the Virgin Mary’s Assumption (August 15) are the important island festivals.

 

The addition of ginger and a piece of lemon peel is my twist on the basic recipe I got from my mother. I think their flavor and aroma deepens the broth’s taste. I prefer making the soup lighter, with vermicelli instead of rice, or even plain — just the broth and pieces of chicken. In that case you may want to add one more egg if you want to make it thicker, creamier.

Sometimes instead of chicken meat,  meatballs such as the Scallion Meatballs,  are cooked in a chicken or meat avgolemono  soup.  

 

 

Until the late 1960s, chicken was considered a great delicacy on the islands. It was the most expensive of all meats and, except for important feasts, it was usually reserved for children and the sick as the lighter of all meats.  The free-range chickens or capons of Greece need a long time to cook, and even then, their flesh can sometimes be tough and stringy. But they make the most delicious soup or youvetsi.

Instead of chicken you can make the soup with de-fatted broth from beef bones or make an exquisite fish soup (psarosoupa) boiling down fish heads, bones, and small fish. I try to always have various homemade stocks in my freezer so that I can make not just soups, but flavor risotto and all kinds of sauces.  

 

 

 Makes 6 to 8 servings as a first course, about 4 to 5 as a main course 

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Winter Cold and Spectacular Moon!

January is cold, often very windy and it may even snow for a day or two. But we also enjoy some occasional sunny days, to do the needed garden work.

We also experience THE most spectacular moon this January, not just in the evening, but also early in the morning… 

 

We may even get some snow on Kea this coming weekend!  

People are often surprised to hear that we occasionally get snow on the island, but we do; not much, and mainly high, on the mountains. It only lasts for a couple of days at the most.  But we do experience snow once a year, usually in January or February, as you can see in the pictures from previous years.  
 

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Dried Fruit and Nuts for Sweetness and Strength

Nuts and dried fruit are associated with the Holiday Season and the New Year.

They are supposed to bring luck and help start the year with sweetness and strength, something we particularly need these difficult times…

 

English pudding is one of such festive cakes, but it is somewhat too complicated, with lots of strange ingredients, while the Boozy Fruitcake I propose is quite simple, provided you have help chopping dried fruit, and do not spare the cost of real, aged Cognac, Armagnac, or Grand Marnier needed to douse the cake. 

 

There is also our morning treat: the somewhat heavy yeasted Seedy, Fruity and Nutty Bread, close to a fruit-nut cake, with complex, bold flavor I always have sliced in the freezer. We toast pieces to enjoy with our coffee.

A variation of this bread can become a vassilopita —the New Year’s cake where the lucky coin is hidden.

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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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