Tuesday, December 29, 2015

more Greek inspired pastry

The other day I made baklava, which is not difficult, but is time consuming.
Since i use a precise number of filo sheets in its making, there was some filo left over and it does not keep once a package is open.

I also had left over baklava nut filling,
It was a bit "special" in that i included some sunflower seeds with the walnuts and almonds, was ground fine and had some of the honey orange syrup i make added to it.

Not enough filo for a traditional baklava, i made a roll and did mot soak it in the honey syrup.
From the tray of goodies i prepared, these were the first to go, with people asking for more.
i was surprised.

Baklava pinwheels

§       7 sheets Filo dough
§       2 pounds unsalted clarified butter
§       10 cups fine chopped nuts - walnuts, pecans and sunflower seeds (roasted and salted)
§       ½ cup granulated raw sugar
§       ½ teaspoon cinnamon
§       ¼ teaspoon ground clove
§       3 oranges or 6 clementines
                      the zest is set aside 
                      the pith is removed from the fruit
§       1 cup raw sugar
§       ½ cup honey
§       ½ cup orange juice
§       the citrus without the rind or pith, quartered
§       1 cup water
§       4 cinnamon sticks

melt the sugar in the water over a low heat with the citrus
add orange juice and honey and reduce the volume by half
remove the citrus and cinnamon sticks and set aside to cool.
this can be kept refrigerated indefinitely

The baklava
The nuts, 1/2 pound of melted butter, sugar, spices and citrus zest are all combined and mixed well and set aside
In a greased large pan, 7 layers of filo dough are placed, brushing melted butter on each.
The nut mixture with 1/2 cup of honey syrup is layered on one side of the dough
the dough is rolled into a log and baked for 30 minutes until golden brown.
this is removed, cooled AND placed in the refrigerator to get cold before cutting into 1 inch "wheels".
serve at room temperature

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Christmas time!

For me it is all about the cookies!
Greek cookies and pastries, but I always work the recipes because some where there is the memory of what my mom made and those in the books do not seem to match.
what i made (in 2 cases) turn out to be almost too light and crumbly.
I did know what to do to fix the basic recipe and then as i scoured other recipes, i saw that adding more eggs made the cookies firmer and so for your entertainment are this years changed offerings.

a dunking cookie
my version

·                        ~ 5 cups flour
·                        1 tablespoon baking powder
·                        1 pound butter, softened, whipped
·                        1/2 cup sugar
·                        5 eggs, lightly beaten
·                        1 teaspoon vanilla extract
·                        1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water
·                        Whole cloves
·                        raw sesame seeds to coat cookies

Sift 3 cups flour with baking powder. Set aside.
Whip butter and sugar.
Add eggs to butter mixture.
Add vanilla.
Add the flour mixture 1/2 cup at a time and mix well
sift and add the remaining flour 1/2 cup at a time until the dough is pliable
Roll dough into 5 to 6 inch logs ~3/8 inches thick
Shape dough with lightly floured hands into desired shapes
arrange on greased cookie sheets.
Brush with beaten egg white and water.
Add sesame seeds and a clove to each shape.
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until golden brown at 350 F
 Cool on racks.

(Joe's version)

·       2 cups whipped butter
·       2/3 cup raw sugar
·       1 teaspoon TANG (this primarily adds acid, not flavor)
·       4 teaspoons vanilla
·       2 teaspoon orange zest
·       2 teaspoon anise flavor
·       1 teaspoon orange flavor
·       5 eggs, beaten (use fewer eggs for lighter, crumblier cookies)
·       3 cups pecans, chopped fine
·       2 teaspoons water
·       5 or more cups flour
·       powdered sugar to finely coat the cooled cookies

Add sugar and TANG to the whipped butter and whip till fluffy.
Add zest, nuts, vanilla, orange and anise flavor and continue to whip.
add water and change to a beater bar
Add flour slowly, continue to beat until the mixture begins to  “ball” into clumps. (Sometimes I need to add more flour)
roll the dough into 1 inch balls and place on a greased cookie sheet
You may shape the cookie, keep in balls or “squash down”.  Your choice
bake for 25 minutes at 350º F.
The cookies will have the edges just brown.
They must cool before removing from tray.
Place on tray and cover with powdered sugar.
Eat at room temperature.

I have already made my traditional Baklava and Karidopida, but did not change the recipe for those.

I will be trying another item that is called Melomakarona, but will be using corn flour (maseca) instead - this will be an experiment, but heck everything i do in the kitchen is an experiment

Thursday, December 10, 2015

time consuming, but worth it

I am talking about a Greek dessert, I have started baking for Christmas and this is my first one.

the recipe i have memorized, but it is still a lot of work, but OH so worth it!

Greek nut cake

The cake
·       8 eggs, separated
·       1 cup sugar
·       1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
·       1/4 teaspoon allspice or nutmeg
·       1 teaspoon fresh orange peel, finely diced
·       1/8 teaspoon cream of tarter
·       2 teaspoons baking powder
·       1/8 teaspoon salt
·       1 teaspoon Hazelnut syrup
·       1 cup cake flour
*       i use regular flour with great results
·       2 cups ground hazelnuts (or Walnuts)
Honey/Orange/wine syrup or powdered syrup.
·       1/2 cup sugar
          i use raw sugar
·       1 whole orange, cut in quarters
·       1/4 cup honey
·       1/2 cup sherry or Port
·       1/2 cup water
make a flavored syrup with water, orange and sugar at a medium high heat
when the mixture boils add sherry and honey and lower heat to a simmer
reduce by 1/4, strain out the orange and then set aside.

Use a whisk attachment on a mixer first
beat egg whites with cream of tarter on high and set aside
beat egg yokes until thick and then add spices, sugar and salt and continue to mix
separately, mix baking powder with the flour
Change the paddle from the whisk to a beat bar and reduce the speed of the mixer
slowly add the flour mixture to the egg yoke mixture
When mixed remove from the mixer and fold in the egg whites
Fold in the nuts
Pour into a 9 x 12 greased cake pan
Cook at 350 F for 40 minutes
Remove from the oven and set aside for 10 minutes before adding any topping
When using the syrup, warm the syrup and pour 1 cup over the cake
If using the powdered sugar, cover a plate with powdered sugar and turn the baking dish onto the plate and allow the cake to fall onto the plate.

Serve cool 

Wednesday, December 2, 2015


After much review, this is the recipe i make that is closest to what my mom made. It is much better (to me) than other recipes i tried that left me disappointed.
It has more spice and flavor and everything else you want for this dish.  I would never refer to it as "Greek Lasagna", it is not anything like a good Lasagna and like all things Greek, a bit more complicated.


meat/ pasta mixture
·      2 lbs ground beef (or lamb or a mixture of both)
·      olive oil to coat pan to cook meat and coat baking pan
·      1 large yellow onion, roughly chopped
·      1/2 cup white wine
·      3 tablespoons parsley, chopped
·      1 tablespoon oregano
·      1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
·      1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
·      1/2 teaspoon ground clove
·      salt and pepper to taste
·      1 1/2 cups Kefalotyri cheese (or Locatelli)
·      1 lb #2 pasta (ziti or penne, I prefer penne to even the Greek pastitsio noodle)
·      1/2 cup butter (1 stick), melted

béchamel sauce

§       1 cup butter (2 sticks)
melt butter on low heat
§       1 cup flour
whisk in flour till smooth
§       2 cups milk, warmed
add milk and pasta water 
§       2 cups pasta water
whisk until smooth
§       4 eggs, whipped
add clove, allspice and salt
§       1/8 teaspoon ground clove
whisk in egg yolks
§       1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
continue to heat until it just thickens
§       salt to taste

1.   cook, but do not brown the ground beef on a medium heat
2.   add onions and cook an additional five minutes
3.   add wine, 1/2 of the parsley, oregano, allspice, clove, cinnamon, salt and pepper and continue for 10 minutes on LOW heat
4.   cook pasta, remembering to salt the water,
5.   drain the pasta, reserving the water
6.   stir in the cheese, butter and flour to the pasta
7.   add meat mixture to the baking pan coated with olive oil
8.   pour portion of the béchamel sauce to cover the meat and mix
9.   add pasta over the meat mixture
10.         pour remaining béchamel sauce over the mixture
11.         add remaining cheese, 1 tablespoon parsley and a light sprinkle of cinnamon to the top
bake at 350 F for 40 minutes, when the top should be light golden brown

Monday, November 30, 2015

cornbread from the box but playing with it...

I make an awesome cornbread from scratch, modifying a Greek dessert recipe, but it is very time consuming, even though it tastes awesome.  If i want something quick, this is what i do.
Corn bread from the box
modifying the box

1.   2 boxes Jiffy corn muffin mix
2.   4 eggs (twice what the box tells you), whipped
        (makes it fluffy and light)
3.   1/3 cup flour
        (adds strength so it does not crumble so easy from the gluten)
4.   1/2 cup milk
5.   1/3 cup beer
       (carbonation so it rises more and bitterness)
6.   1 tablespoon raw sugar
7.   12 oz sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
       (adds firmness and the sharp flavor of the cheese)
8.   1/2 cup whole kernel corn (frozen is great, but thaw it first)
       (adds texture)
9.   1 tablespoon hot, green peppers, diced
10.                     1/4 stick of butter, melted
             (adds sweetness and makes everything more moist)
11.                     1/4 cup shelled, roasted pumpkin seeds
             (adds crunch)
12.                     standard large baking dish 9 x 12, greased

pre-heat oven to 400 F
into the dry mix add:
the eggs, milk, beer, sugar, peppers, corn and half of the cheese
mix thoroughly, it should pour into the pan, if not add more beer
top with the remainder of the cheese and the pumpkin seeds
cooked at 400 F for 20 minutes.
turn off the oven and watch carefully for 5 minutes while it is in the oven
do not let it turn dark brown!   The cheese will be dark, but there is a difference between dark and burned.
remove and pour melted butter around the edges and center of the pan
cool and then cut (do not cut while hot!)

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Recipes..what to do?

Ever tried to make a tempting sounding recipe you have found,
only to find following it left you wanting?
Lately, that has been my story...
I tried an apple cake, twice...
the first time following the recipe exactly, the second trying to "fix" it.
Neither came out well.
I cook a mean Pastitsio, but do not follow a recipe and invariably forget to put the eggs in béchamel sauce, so it is not as light and fluffy as it should be, so i found similar recipes and tried to follow the steps presented...twice also.
I was extremely disappointed, again.
Why does it seem that when i do things "on the fly", so to speak, it works and when i try to follow a recipe exactly, it does not?
I know to much...
I know that there is always variability in the flour and that some times more or less must be added, you have to have it look and feel right and recipes can not tell you what experience can.
Sometimes there are misprints, sometimes they are just wrong.
Apples, even using the same variety, will differ in flavor and juiciness.
Sometimes someones flavors are not what you remember from your mother's cooking...that was true in the Pastitsio,  neither recipe i found used allspice, yet that was the secondary spice of choice from my mom and i missed it terribly.

So i am back to doing things as i often do, "off the cuff"  and i will share what i did and hopefully it will come out okay for you.

Friday, October 23, 2015

cooking from the wild

thee are many things that i will take that grow wild,
concord grapes are a simple one, dandelion greens in the spring are another, but around this time there is something special that comes out here in the New England area, giant puff ball mushrooms.
I know, you are suppose to be an expert in order to harvest wild mushrooms, but for this giant, there are no equal in the toxic world, yet there is some information you need to enjoy your meal.

First they are big, big enough to be mistaken for a soccer ball.

this one is over 9 inches and it was not the largest!

second pick them when they first show up and cook them the same day!
The insides MUST be all white!  Any discoloration means the spores are beginning to ripen and they will upset your stomach.
this is how white they should be!
you notice the different dates on the pictures?  Normally there is only one crop and this year there were two, i did not mind!

Cleaning is as any other mushroom, but you want to minimize the skin, which is tough.
Cut 1/2 inch pieces of steak and discard the ends.
Now to cook them.
It should be noted that they absorb any butter, oil or cooking liquid in large quantities - a single 1/2 inch slice will completely absorb 1 stick of butter!
Use a non-stick pan or grill them getting a crust with a small amount of cooking oil or butter.
I add salt, pepper and tarragon to my pan to add flavors i like.

They also taste different than any other mushroom you have ever had, the outside crisp and tender and the inside, while it still has the mushroom texture, taste very much like a pudding (especially if you add to much butter, like i did on the first slice.)
this is a full meal and just needs some vegetables to round it out.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

what to do?

I had a really good crop of tomatoes this year,
all shapes and sizes, but we are getting a freeze tonight and to i have picked them all!

What to do now?
Many will ripen and still taste better than the store's tomatoes.
some i will make into a green tomato relish (no recipe yet)
and some i will smoke and serve with southern style food.
I do not do fried foods, so no fried green tomatoes.

Yes, this is my smoker!  4 years in service and in this picture smoking some beautiful pork ribs and eggplant - ...
hickory, maple, hazelnut, cherry and apple woods are what i have available.
This is maple with onions skins.
I also keep my onion skins, oregano stems and sage to add extra flavor when they are warranted ...Onion skins work with everything, fish, beef, pork, sausage and chicken
oregano works with sausage, pork and chicken
and sage works mostly with sausage and chicken.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

It is not like i have not been cooking

I have, but just forget to take pictures, write down the recipes here and so forth...
that apology given, i share the following: 24 hour smoked brisket and this is all that is left after 2 days:
firm yet fork tender and juicy!

I changed my rub and went with something very different:
I also cooked 2 full briskets at a time

Brisket Rub 2

3 chipolte peppers, dry, crushed fine
6 paprika
1 rosemary
6 black pepper
6 salt
1 cayenne pepper
1 turbo sugar

The method was slightly different

 - the brisket is slow cooked 24 hours (200 F) with a liquid barrier between the brisket and the heat
rub applied the previous day.
smoke is from Hickory
After 8 hours in the smoker, the brisket is wrapped in tinfoil and cooking continues for the remainder of the 24 hours at 200 F

no extra wood is added for smoke

this is a keeper and reminded me of the best i ever had in Texas

Friday, September 11, 2015

Hot Dog Truck - again

One of my best memories when coming to Stamford some 30+ years ago, was a hot dog truck on Atlantic St.
I had never seen a food truck at that time, but a dollar for a hot dog with anything on it seemed like a cheap lunch (and i did not have much money at the time).
The vendor retired or moved on, i never found out, but there were no hot dog trucks for many years.
There were other trucks, some operating out of restaurants or promoting them and then an onslaught of many food trucks came, started by Melt Mobile, initially promoted by the Food Network and Bobby Flay.
I loved what they did, but i had a hankering for a hot dog truck and there were none out of the dozen or so that popped onto the food scene.

To my delight, last year a hot dog truck appeared on Washington Blvd. by the Mill River Park.
The hot dogs were more expensive than 25 years ago (2 for $5), but they filled a notch I NEEDED!
They sold a spicy sausage also.
I liked their hot dog chili and all the other standard "fixins'" that you would expect for a hot dog.
The owner and operator would be quick to tell me that the dogs are Sabrett as is the mustard, but they are good!

They are still there on good days so a shout out to something very simple!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Grilling time

I have done this before, but refined the recipe.  It is not so simple now and it has a picture!

Cod on a Grill

·       1 package of bacon
·       2 pieces of Cod, trimmed and halved
·       1/2 teaspoon salt
·       1/2 teaspoon ginger
·       1/4 teaspoon hot pepper
·       juice of 1 lime
·       2 tablespoons chives or scallions, minced
·       1 tablespoon parsley, minced
·       1 teaspoon butter, soft

Mix the salt, ginger and lime juice together and slather the Cob pieces
mix the herbs and butter and place on one side of one piece of cod
place the second piece of cod on top and wrap completely in bacon
place in a removable wire rack
The grill must be a 2 tier grill
The charcoal should be getting white
add wood for some smoke just before placing the cod on the grill
The target temperature for the grill is 275 F
·       if the temperature goes above 300 F or
·       if the fire starts to flame
use these methods to reduce the temperature as the fat renders from the bacon:
·       use a pan of water to place between the cod and the fire
·       keep the grill closed and reduce the air flow
allow the bacon to cook to a soft doneness, it should not crisp about 20 minutes
Remove and serve

Monday, August 10, 2015

Cold Avocado Soup

Avocados are inexpensive and very good so for a hot summer day i give you:

Cold Avocado soup

·       2 avocados
·       2 tablespoon cilantro, minced (reserve one)
·       1 Tablespoon lime juice
·       1/2 cup sour cream
·       1 cup chicken broth
·       1 teaspoon salt
·       Corn tortilla chips

Cut avocados and place in a blender with every thing else.
blend on low until completely mixed.
Chill in the refrigerator until serving

serve over tortilla chips and minced cilantro on top

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Accolades for a food chemist

The Food chemist who produced the flavors in this bag of potato chips has my respect.  He nailed the flavor, COMPLETELY!
Lately there has been a huge surge in artificial or extracted flavors in foods that do not usually have these flavors and i have been very disappointed.  I run into this bag of flavor and i think this guy needs a BIG bonus and the other companies need to fire the food chemists.
Most notable fail - Nathan's sour cream and onion pretzel - I will only say it is horrible.
Another fail was Lay's Southern Biscuit and gravy.
An honorable mention goes to a crab flavored potato chip (Cape Cod possibly was the manufacturer?), but its success was only okay (probably due to the use of Old Bay Seasoning) and paled in comparison to what 7-11 accomplished.