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Cabbage Rolls with Tomato Sauce

Here’s another dish brought to you by Yiayia Saltas: Lahanodolmades (cabbage rolls). Traditionally made with an avgolemono (egg and lemon sauce on top), my yiayia has always served hers with a rich tomato sauce that brightens up the rolls and creates depths of flavor. They are a perfect comfort dish that can be a stand alone meal, or served alongside a leafy salad or your favorite soup. These rolls are great warm or cold.



For the stuffing:
2 medium heads of cabbage
1 ½ lb ground beef
1 cup rice (or more rice if you prefer)
1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tablespoon dried oregano, or to taste
1 teaspoon dried mint
Salt and pepper, to taste

For the sauce:
15 oz tomato sauce
15 oz petite diced tomatoes
8 oz ketchup
1 teaspoon oregano
¼ cup olive oil
water or beef broth, if needed for extra liquid

1. Bring a large pot of water to boil (enough to submerge cabbage). Wash the cabbage, cut the stem and place in boiling water, stem side down. Parboil until the outer leaves are tender and can easily come off. This should take about 10-15 minutes.
2. With a ladle or slotted spoon, carefully remove the leaves one by one and place on a baking pan or strainer to cool.
3. Meanwhile, make your stuffing. In a medium bowl, combine the ground beef, rice, onion, and garlic. Season with dried oregano, dried mint, and salt and pepper. Mix everything altogether until well combined.
4. In a separate bowl, make your sauce. Combine the tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, ketchup, oregano and olive oil and mix well. Mix in one cup of the tomato mixture into the meat mixture. Set aside the rest.
5. Preheat the oven to 350F.
6. To assemble the cabbage rolls, cut the veins from the bottom of each cabbage leaf, creating a V shape. With any broken or too small of leaves, place them on the bottom of a baking dish.
7. Place the leaf cut side up and add 1 tablespoons of the meat mixture at the end. Fold in the sides of the leaves and roll up. Repeat until all of the cabbage leaves are used. Place the rolls snuggly in the baking dish, and ensure there are no gaps. Try to fit as many in a single layer. Cover the top with a few cabbage leaves.
8. Top the rolls with the tomato sauce. Add more olive oil or water if needed for extra liquid. You want the rolls to be mostly covered in liquid. Place an inverted plate on top of the rolls keep them submerged and snug while cooking.
9. Bake for 1-1 ½ hours, or until cabbage rolls are tender.



Vasilopita (New Year’s Cake)

When the clock strikes 12:01 into the New Year or any time on New Year’s Day, many Greeks will slice into a vasilopita, a New Year’s cake made with the typical fixings of a cake (flour, sugar, eggs), and spiced with orange juice or the baker’s choice of add ins (raisins, walnuts, mastiha are all common). A layer of powdered sugar dusts the top of the cake once cooled. Traditionally, a coin is inserted into the cake either before or after baking. When it comes time to serve, the fortunate individual who finds a coin in their slice (careful when eating!), will have luck for the rest of the year. Happy New Year! καλή χρόνια


½ cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
½ cup canola oil or vegetable oil
1 ½ cups sugar
3 eggs
1 ½ cups orange juice (preferably fresh if available)
1 orange zest
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 1/2 to 4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon nutmeg
Powdered sugar, for dusting

1. Preheat oven to 350F (177C). Grease two 9 inch round cake pans, or one large 12 inch springform cake pan. You can also line the pans with wax or parchment paper.
2. In a mixing bowl, cream together the butter, oil, and sugar until light and fluffy.
3. Add eggs in one at a time and mix together. Then, mix in the orange juice, orange zest and vanilla.
4. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and nutmeg. Slowly incorporate flour into the wet ingredients with mixer on a low speed. Use a spatula if necessary, so you are careful not to over mix. The dough should be smooth and not too sticky.
5. Pour batter into pre greased pans. Bake for 45-50 minutes, or until a thin knife or toothpick inserted comes out clean and the cake is springy to the touch.
6. Allow cake to cool at least 10 minutes before removing it from the pan. If adding a coin for New Year’s, invert the cake onto a wire rack. Wrap a coin in aluminum foil and insert it into the cake by slicing into cake with a long, thin knife.
7. Flip back over and dust the top with powdered sugar. If preferred, add a design or number of the year by using stencils or paper cut outs. You can even decorate the cake with pomegranates, sliced almonds, or frosting.

Tirokroketes (Fried Cheese Balls)

Gooey on the inside, crunchy on the outside, tirokroketes (fried cheese balls) is an  irresistible appetizer that will leave guests wanting more. For this dish, I use three different types of cheese: feta, graviera, and gouda. The three types play well together and creates great flavor. Eat plain, dunk in your favorite dipping sauce, or squeeze a lemon on top before serving and enjoy!


Tirokroketes (Fried Cheese Balls)
Recipe type: Meze/Appetizer
Serves: 14-16 balls
  • 3 oz feta cheese, crumbled
  • 3 oz graviera cheese, grated*
  • 3 oz gouda, grated
  • 1 egg and 1 egg white
  • ¼ cup milk
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • pepper, to taste
  • all-purpose flour, for dredging
  • vegetable oil, for frying
  1. In a mixing bowl, add the feta, graviera, gouda, eggs, and milk. Combine mixture well and season with pepper and paprika.
  2. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, to allow the mixture to firm up.
  3. When the cheese mixture is ready, add some flour to a bowl or plate. Form the mixture and roll into balls, about golf ball sized. Then, roll the balls into flour and set aside.
  4. Heat the vegetable oil in a deep fry pan, to 350F/180C. Once hot enough, drop the cheese balls in batches so the pan isn’t overcrowded. Fry cheese balls until nicely colored and golden on all sides, about 2-3 minutes.
  5. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and place them on a plate lined with paper towels to absorb any excess oil.
  6. Serve warm and enjoy!
*If you cannot find graviera cheese, you can use pecorino Romano, Parmesan, or Gruyere.



Zucchini Bread

You can always tell it’s the end of the summer by the amount of zucchini bread being made or gifted. The motivation to utilize zucchini in different ways is much higher towards the beginning of the summer, and then suddenly it seems like the zucchini production has tripled and we’re all juggling zucchini.

That’s when zucchini bread comes into play. Packed with shredded zucchini, chopped walnuts, and all the right spices, zucchini bread is a delicious and quick way to use up any garden zucchini. Plus, this bread freezes well so you can enjoy zucchini the tastes of summer all year long.

3 cups zucchini, grated (skins on)
3 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar (compacted)
1 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon vanilla
3 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
3 teaspoons cinnamon
1 cup chopped walnuts
*1 cup chocolate chips (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and flour loaf pans (batter should make two 8×4 inch pans).
2. Beat the eggs and sugar together in a large bowl. Whisk in the vegetable oil, vanilla, honey, and grated zucchini.
3. Sift dry ingredients and fold in, being careful not to over-mix. Stir in chopped walnuts. Add chocolate chips if desired.
4. Pour batter into pans evenly and bake for 60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
5. Let cool (seriously—don’t be like me and impatiently eat before cooled) for at least 20 minutes in the pan, and then remove and serve.
TIP: the bread does taste better the next day. That’s why you make two loaves—one for right out of the oven and one for the following day.


*You can also make zucchini muffins! Just add the batter to greased muffin tins and fill 2/3 full. Bake for 45-60 minutes, or until toothpick inserted comes out clean. Enjoy! 


Greek Bruschetta

Sunday dinners are my favorite. Sundays mean I have more time to carefully prepare a dinner for my family, rather than rushing after work to whip something up. I like to thoughtfully put a meal together. Sunday also means my yiayia is usually over at our house. One night, not even ten minutes before dinner was to be served, my yiayia asked me if we were having dakos (an appetizer with a rusk bread, tomatoes, and soft mizithra cheese). I shook my head no, and the playful smile left my yiayias face. That look of disappointment is something I never want to see again—I had to do something about it—and fast.

Though dakos is easy to make, I didn’t have the ingredients for the dish on hand. As I frantically combed through my kitchen I found pita bread, tomatoes and feta cheese—basic staples in a Greek kitchen. Plus, out of luck, a coworker had sent me home with fresh basil that day. That was all I needed to make a Greek style bruschetta.

Bruschetta is like summer on a plate. A mixture of fresh tomatoes, basil, herbs, and olive oil perfectly top slices of toasted bread—or in this Greeky case—pita bread. This Italian classic appetizer can easily turned Greek to meet the approval of any yiayia.


Greek Bruschetta
A classic Italian appetizer, made with Greek flavors.
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 8-10 fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced
  • ½ cup feta cheese
  • Oregano
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 3 pita breads
  1. In a bowl, toss together the tomatoes, basil, feta cheese and balsamic vinegar. Season with oregano, salt, and pepper to taste. Stir to combine. Allow to chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
  2. When ready, prepare the pita bread. Add olive oil and garlic to a small bowl and sprinkle with oregano, salt and pepper. This will be your baste for the pita bread.
  3. Preheat a pan or skillet to medium high heat.
  4. Cut each pita bread into 8 triangle wedges. Brush each pita slice with the olive oil baste and grill on the pan for 1-2 minutes each side until nicely marked.
  5. Put the finished pita slices on a serving tray, and brush with additional olive oil baste.
  6. To serve, spoon the tomato mixture generously over each pita slice. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with additional oregano.

Calamari Stew

Living in landlocked Utah, I don’t get my seafood fix as often as I would like to. But when I do, I like the dishes that can be enjoyed year round and are easy to create, like this calamari stew. In the summer, calamari stew is superb served plain with a glass of ouzo. In the winter it’s equally superb served over a bed of rice. I serve it in the spring and fall, too. It’s a winner no matter when it’s served it, as my dad and I recently did at Salt Lake City’s annual Taste of Greece fundraiser. We literally cooked a vat of calamari stew, nearly 20 pounds of calamari alone. No matter the batch size, this dish is made the same, cooked slowly in a rich tomato sauce and given the final touch of olives and capers.

If you’ve ever prepared calamari you know the simple rule for tenderness—cook it fast (such as on a grill) or cook it slow (as in a stew like this one). Never in between unless you have would rather spend your night chewing. You won’t be chewing calamari if prepared in this style.


Calamari Stew
Recipe type: Main Dish
Delicious calamari stew, made in a rich tomato sauce.
  • 2 pounds squid (frozen is more readily available)
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, sliced
  • 1 fennel bulb, whites only, sliced. Save the fronds.
  • 4 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1 (15-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • ⅓ cup ouzo
  • ¼ cup capers
  • 1 cup green olives
  • Fennel fronds, chopped (or dill) to taste
  1. If not using precut rings, thaw your squid and slice into rings. Set aside.
  2. In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat and sauté the onions and fennel until translucent. Add the garlic. Season well with salt and pepper.
  3. Add crushed tomatoes and wine. Reduce the heat and let simmer until the sauce begins to thicken.
  4. Add the squid and simmer for about 20 minutes. Pour in the ouzo and simmer for 25 to 40 minutes.
  5. Add the capers, olives and fennel fronds. Stir well and remove from heat.
  6. Garnish with fresh parsley and serve warm.


Patatas Bravas, Greek Style

I freely admit I don’t have the greatest memory in the world. Recalling what I did a year or even a day ago proves to be a challenge at times. The main prompt that helps me recount an occasion is food. I have this otherwise useless power to remember who I ate with, what I ate, when I ate it, where I ate, and why. Here’s an example: On a trip to Spain in 2017 with three of my friends, Amy, Ali, and Elefteria, the very first thing we ate was patatas bravas atop a Madrid rooftop bar. I remember what we drank too—sangria, a pitcher or two to be exact. Why? Because Spain.

Patatas bravas is a traditional Spanish tapa made with crispy potatoes and topped with a spicy tomato sauce that hasn’t left my memory taste bank since that very first bite. So much so that I immediately wanted to turn this Spanish tapa into a Greek style meze. How to make them “Greeky” you may wonder? Simply parboil, then bake the potatoes with extra virgin olive oil and oregano, plus some paprika—your potatoes will be crispy outside, soft inside and have just a bit of Spanish tang. As for the sauce, I use an even spicier version of the popular Greek tyrokafteri (spicy feta dip) and enhance it with even more paprika for that perfect redness. Just add more yogurt for a creamier and lighter sauce. The result? A tapa/meze you’ll never forget.


Patatas Bravas, Greek Style
Recipe type: Greek Meze/Spanish Tapa
Serves: 4
For the sauce:
  • 2 sweet red peppers, seeded and chopped
  • 1 spicy red pepper, seeded and chopped*
  • 2-3 sprinkles of chili flakes—more for more heat
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 ounces soft feta cheese
  • ½ cup Greek yogurt
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
For the potatoes:
  • 4 medium russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place in the oven.
  2. For the sauce: Add half the olive oil to a medium frying pan over medium heat. Add all of the chopped peppers and the chili flakes and paprika. Sauté until the peppers have softened.
  3. In a food processor or mixer, add feta, yogurt, garlic, vinegar, and the grilled peppers, along with the oil accumulated from the pan.
  4. Mix everything together in the food processor until you have a smooth texture. With the mixer on medium speed, gradually add the remaining olive oil. Check for flavor and add more chili flakes for more spice, or more yogurt for a creamier texture. Cover and set sauce aside while potatoes cook.
  5. For the potatoes: Bring eight cups of water to a boil in a large pot. Add potatoes, baking soda, and one teaspoon of salt. Bring the water back to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Cook for 5-10 minutes.
  6. Drain the potatoes and transfer to a large bowl. Coat well with olive oil, oregano, paprika, and salt and pepper. Carefully remove the baking sheet from oven and arrange the potatoes in a single layer.
  7. Bake until the potatoes are golden and crisp, about 25-30 minutes.
  8. Once potatoes are ready, remove from the oven and transfer to a serving bowl. Sprinkle with salt and paprika to taste. Then, drizzle the spicy sauce on top and serve.


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“Sloppy Tzo” -Greek Sloppy Joe’s

Sloppy Joe is an American classic consisting of ground beef or pork and a tomato sauce sandwiched between toasted hamburger buns. It’s such an easy meal that comes together in just one skillet, and so we have enjoyed plenty a sloppy joe’s in my house—some sloppier than others depending on the maker. I like mine extra sloppy, and being a Greek blogger, I like mine extra Greek. How do you make a sloppy joe Greek, you ask? You start with using ground lamb (or pork) instead of ground beef, and incorporate seasonings like cinnamon and oregano and fresh garlic to the mix. Later, Kalamata olives and crumble feta round out the dish for that extra Greek twist. Oh, and we are not done there. A name change is also necessary so get your best Greek accent ready and instead of “Joe” say “Tzo.” There you have it—a Greek Sloppy Tzo. And remember, a sloppy tzo is intended to be messy, so there should be no clean hands when eating one.

"Sloppy Tzo" -Greek Sloppy Joe's
Recipe type: Dinner/Main Course
Cuisine: Greek American
Serves: 6-8
  • 2 pounds ground lamb or pork (or a combination of the two)
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 3 tablespoons dry oregano, or more to taste
  • 1 ½ teaspoon cinnamon, or more to taste
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1 green pepper, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 2 (15-ounce) cans tomato sauce
  • 1 cup of water
  • ¼ cup ketchup
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • ½ cup pitted Kalamata olives, lightly chopped
  • ½ cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 8 brioche or hamburger buns, toasted
  1. In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat and add the lamb (or pork). Pound the meat with a spoon to break up into chunks. Season generously with salt, pepper, cinnamon, and oregano and brown the meat.
  2. Add onions, green pepper and garlic and cook until onions have softened.
  3. Add tomato sauce, red pepper flakes, ketchup, water, and Worcestershire sauce to the pot.
  4. Reduce heat and simmer for about 15 minutes and taste for flavor. Add more salt and pepper, cinnamon and oregano if needed. Add more of what you prefer. I tend to add a lot of cinnamon and oregano.
  5. Remove from heat and stir in chopped Kalamata olives and crumbled feta.
  6. Serve on toasted buns.
Alternatively, if you have any leftover kima (meat sauce) you have and plop it on a toasted bun.


Georgiann’s Koulourakia

Koulourakia comes in all shapes, sizes and flavors. Some bakers turn their dough into playful circles, braids, or serpentines, and some twist their koulourakia so precisely it looks like a machine pumped them out. Depending on the baker or family recipe, koulourakia is infused with anise, vanilla, orange or lemon zest. And some are left plain with simply the mixings of flour, sugar, butter, and eggs. No matter how they’re prepared, koulourakia makes a perfect companion with a cup of coffee.


Photo by Sarah Arnoff

My cousin, Georgiann Pino Petrogeorge has mastered the art of koulourakia. She and I share the same great-grandmother, Anastasia (Tasia) Patsuris. Our yiayia’s (grandmother’s) were sisters with phenomenal cooking skills. You name it—they could make it.


Photo by Sarah Arnoff

Georgiann spent a lot of kitchen time with her yiayia, Georgia Patsuris Sargetakis, and together the two would bake, cook, and share many laughs. Koulourakia, a Greek Easter cookie is one of those treats that sends Georgian back to her yiayia’s kitchen. Over time, Georgiann has modified her yiayia’s recipe to her own favorite tastes, like using vanilla beans rather than vanilla extract, and zesting a full orange and mixing it into the dough. “You eat with your eyes first” says Georgiann, “and I love seeing the bits of vanilla bean and colorful orange that can be found in each bite of koulourakia.”

As part of a new quest I’ve set out to preserve not just my own family recipes, but others’ favorite family recipes as well, Georgiann was kind enough to be one of my first contributors. Together we exchanged memories of our yiayia’s, all while baking a common cookie we both love. I hope you enjoy another koulourakia recipe, from the kitchen of my sweet cousin Georgiann.


A big thank you to Sarah Arnoff for all the beautiful photos.

Georgiann's Koulourakia
Recipe type: Dessert/Cookie
Serves: 120 cookies
Delicious koulourakia flavored with orange zest.
  • 1 pound butter (450g)
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 pound powdered sugar (450g)
  • 2 vanilla beans (or a Tablespoon of vanilla extract)
  • 12 eggs
  • 2 boxes cake flour (4 pounds/64 oz)
  • 9 teaspoons baking powder
  • Zest of one orange
  • 3 egg yolks for glazing
  1. Prior to baking, leave butter out at room temperature to soften. Important note: DO NOT microwave butter to soften the butter. This turns your dough too soft and sticky, and could make the cookies chewier in texture.
  2. In a mixer, cream the butter together until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add sugar and beat together.
  3. Slowly incorporate the eggs, beating in the mixture one by one. The mixture will look like it’s curdled—don’t be alarmed. Add in the dry ingredients (cake flour, baking powder) a little bit at a time.
  4. In a separate bowl, beat the whipping cream with a whisk until stiff peaks form. Add to the mixing bowl and mix until well incorporated. The dough should be soft.
  5. Split vanilla beans lengthwise and scrape the vanilla from the beans; add to the butter and sugar mixture. Add orange zest.
  6. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
  7. When ready, place the dough on a clean surface for shaping. Take a little piece of dough (about the size of a walnut) and roll into a thin rope-like cord (about 6-7” long and ⅓” wide). Fold the rope in half and twist to form a braided cookie. Repeat this process with the remaining dough, ensuring that the koulourakia are the same size.
  8. You can also roll these into other shapes like circles or serpentines.
  9. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place koulourakia on the sheet, leaving space in between each, as they will slightly expand.
  10. In a small bowl, whisk the two egg yolks for the glaze. Brush the cookies with the egg yolk glaze and sprinkle sesame seeds on top.
  11. Bake at 375 degrees for 15-17 minutes, or until golden brown.
  12. Let the koulourakia cool, and enjoy!

Mom’s Snickerdoodle Cookies

In no particular order, the three best cookies of all time are melomakrona, chocolate chip cookies (still on the hunt for a soft and gooey go to recipe), and my mom’s Snickerdoodle’s. My mom says she has had this recipe for “over 100 years” and although Snickerdoodle recipes are all so similar with just a few variations, my mom’s recipe has always been may favorite and is dangerously addicting. They are easy to make, and come out soft and chewy every single time. If you need to store the cookies, my mom suggests putting them in a storage container with a slice of bread on top to keep the cookies nice and soft. Somehow, it works–science! Enjoy.


Mom's Snickerdoodle Cookies
Recipe type: Sweets/Dessert
Serves: 100 cookies
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • ½ cup margarine, softened
  • ½ cup shortening
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 ¾ cup flour
  • 2 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • For the topping:
  • 2 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoon cinnamon
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, cream together the sugar, margarine and shortening until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add in the eggs and mix for another 2 minutes.
  3. Sift in the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt and mix until combined.
  4. In a separate bowl, mix the cinnamon and sugar for the topping.
  5. Shape dough into small round balls and roll into cinnamon-sugar mixture.
  6. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place dough balls 2 inches apart. Bake for 8-10 minutes.