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!
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.
A classic Italian appetizer, made with Greek flavors.
2 cups cherry tomatoes, quartered
8-10 fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced
½ cup feta cheese
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
3 pita breads
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.
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.
Preheat a pan or skillet to medium high heat.
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.
Put the finished pita slices on a serving tray, and brush with additional olive oil baste.
To serve, spoon the tomato mixture generously over each pita slice. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with additional oregano.
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.
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.
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
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place in the oven.
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.
In a food processor or mixer, add feta, yogurt, garlic, vinegar, and the grilled peppers, along with the oil accumulated from the pan.
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.
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.
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.
Bake until the potatoes are golden and crisp, about 25-30 minutes.
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.
BTW, that beauty of a watch is from JORD watches.
Want a chance to win a watch yourself? I’ve partnered with the company for a giveaway to one of my followers to receive $100 off any watch timepiece. Simply click the link HERE to enter the giveaway. PLUS, each person that enters will all receive a 10% discount code to use on a future purchase. Contest closes on 7/14/2019.
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.
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
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.
Add onions, green pepper and garlic and cook until onions have softened.
Add tomato sauce, red pepper flakes, ketchup, water, and Worcestershire sauce to the pot.
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.
Remove from heat and stir in chopped Kalamata olives and crumbled feta.
Serve on toasted buns.
Alternatively, if you have any leftover kima (meat sauce) you have and plop it on a toasted bun.
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.
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.
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.
2 vanilla beans (or a Tablespoon of vanilla extract)
2 boxes cake flour (4 pounds/64 oz)
9 teaspoons baking powder
Zest of one orange
3 egg yolks for glazing
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.
In a mixer, cream the butter together until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add sugar and beat together.
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.
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.
Split vanilla beans lengthwise and scrape the vanilla from the beans; add to the butter and sugar mixture. Add orange zest.
Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
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.
You can also roll these into other shapes like circles or serpentines.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place koulourakia on the sheet, leaving space in between each, as they will slightly expand.
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.
Bake at 375 degrees for 15-17 minutes, or until golden brown.
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.
Considered a national dish of Greece, fasolada represents the country’s frugal and healthy style of cuisine all in one bowl. Made with a hearty combination of white beans, chopped vegetables, extra virgin olive oil, a handful of herbs, and a robust sauce, fasolada is a meal meant to last for days.
Though fasolada is traditionally a thick soup, I like more sauce to mine, as I do with most soups and stews, because that equals more opportunity for bread dunking. And who doesn’t love carbs soaked in sauce? Complement fasolada with a salty side dish, such as anchovies, feta cheese or your favorite olive type.
16 oz white navy beans (I prefer medium or large sized)
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 yellow onions, diced
3 large carrots, peeled and cut into rounds
4 celery stalks plus their leaves, chopped
5 garlic cloves, minced
16 oz tomato sauce (or tomato passata)
2 tablespoon tomato paste
6 cups of water, plus more if needed
1 cup vegetable broth
2 bay leaves
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 teaspoon oregano, or more to taste
½ tsp chili flakes (optional)
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar, for serving
The night before: rinse the beans and add to a bowl and cover with water to soak overnight (up to 24 hours). When ready to use, rinse and drain the beans.
In a large pot, bring a pot of water to a boil and add the beans. As the beans cook, you may notice a white foam rise to the surface. If so, be sure to remove with a spoon. Parboil for approximately 25 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat half of the olive oil in frying pan over medium heat. Add onions, carrots, and celery and sprinkle with pepper and oregano to taste. Cook until vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for another 5 minutes.
To the pot with the beans, add the vegetables, tomato sauce, tomato paste, bay leaf, vegetable broth and the remaining olive oil. Be sure there is enough liquid to cover the beans.
Cover the pot with a lid and reduce the heat to low/medium and slow simmer for about 1 to 1 ½ hours. Occasionally check the soup and add more water if necessary.
Towards the end of the cooking process, season with salt and pepper to taste, plus chili flakes if desired. Continue to slow simmer until the soup has thickened and beans have softened.
Stir in the red wine vinegar or lemon juice at the end to taste.
Fasolada is even better the next day, as the ingredients sit and develop together. Reheat in a pot on the stove and add more water or vegetable broth.
Let me help narrow the field of amazing Greek beaches to relish. With a coastline of 8,498 miles, Greece challenges tourists and locals alike. In a good way! For every new beach found, another discovery awaits. Whether your mood is mellow or high energy, whether you prefer to lie on pebbles or sink your toes in the sand—you’ll find your perfect beach experience on either the mainland or one of the numerous islands. I’m happy to provide a short list of can’t-miss beaches that my dear Instagram followers assure me are THE BEST. Because I have not combed every single Greek beach, you’ll have to take their enthusiastic words for it.
On Instagram, I simply posted a picture with the instructions to leave a comment with a name of their favorite beach in Greece with a short why. The endorsements below came from local Greeks in Greece, as well as Greeks living in America, Australia, South Africa, Trinidad and the UK. The results cover nearly every corner of Greece and range from beaches that cater to families, have great beach food, possess perfect Instagram photo-shoots or glorious backdrops, and offer enough water activities to pack into ten lifetimes. Enjoy.
1. Arillas Beach, Corfu
“I spent every summer growing up on this beach! Great memories, sunsets, and family.” –@thegreeknyc
2. Kolymbithres Beach, Paros
“Clear water and lots of fun rocks for insta- photoshoots.” –@i.pateras
3. Sarakiniko Beach, Milos
“It’s stunningly picturesque surrounded by white rock, and with water so clear you can see the ocean floor! Its beauty is so unique that I felt like I was in a dream rather than experiencing reality.” –@diannayota
4. Navagio Beach (Shipwreck Bay), Zakynthos
“When you are there you truly feel like you are on another planet. There really isn’t anything like it!” –@iamgreece
5. Paraga Beach, Mykonos
“The beach offers something for everyone. Party- goers can find their rhythm at Kalua Beach Bar, while others can rent a comfortable lounge chair with a large umbrella, and relax until their heart’s content. Need a good Instagram? The mermaid rock about 30 yards from the shore will do the trick.” –@realchriscohen
6. Falasarna Beach, Crete
“Truly breathtakingly beautiful and crystal turquoise blue water.” –@paraskivoula
7. Vroulidia Beach, Chios
“The walk down to the beach is absolutely beautiful. The turquoise water contrasts with white cliffs perfectly. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can swim out to a natural landing off the cliffs and do some light climbing (mountain goat style).” –@mathoula11
8. Apella Beach, Karpathos
“Surrounded by mountains and pine trees and I’ll never forget the color of the water. AMAZING!!” –@_my_greece_
9. Kathisma Beach, Lefkada
“You can rock jump, swim, and hang glide all in one place!” –@greeks_at_their_finest
10. Myrtos Beach, Kefalonia
“Breathtaking drive to the beach, with clear blue warm water.” –@theoliveandmango
11. Kamari Beach, Santorini
“An amazing ‘black beach’ in Santorini with black pebbles and clear water, with a view of a white cliff to the right, and an endless sea view to the left.” –@marinasavva007
12. Agios Nikolaos Alikis Beach, Paros
“The water is crystal clear, it is a sandy beach,
and it does not have many tourists. Secluded and romantic, it suits individuals, couples and families.” –@createcookshare
13. Palionisos Beach, Kalymnos
“The pebbled beach lies in a beautiful ord-like bay with the calmest, clearest water I’ve ever seen. There are usually a handful of sailboats anchored deep in the bay, making for some awesome IG photos! Oh, and there’s a lady that makes loukoumades right on the beach that are so amazing!” –@marialopu
14. Agia Dynami Beach, Chios
“Feels like you’re in the Bahamas. Crystal clear water, scenic drive on the way there and off the beaten path.” –@vasilaki25
15. Koukounaires Beach, Skiathos
Ultra-fine golden sand, surrounded by a pine forest. Arguably one of the most beautiful beaches in Greece! –@magdatsagaris
16. Agios Stefanos Beach, Kos
“It’s stunning. You arrive down at a beautiful beach with ruins on your left and a long stretch of sand to your right. Ahead of you is a tiny, mountain island with the chapel of Agios Stefanos on top. People love to swim or paddle board out to the island to pay their respects and cliff dive the other side.” –@varahlynette
17. Navarino Beach, Kalamata
“The water is crystal clear, warm and calm, since it lies in the center of the Messinian Gulf. It’s a long and wide beach, and the magnificent Mount Taygetos is visible no matter where you are on the beach.” –@miakouppa
18. Vasiliki Beach, Lefkada
“It’s beautiful, great food to be had nearby and although it is a bit windy this makes it the perfect wind sailing and surfing beach. Of course, Porto Katsiki and Kathisma are also on the island and are STUNNING.” –@starsandstatic
19. Elafonisi Beach, Crete
“The water was beautiful. Crystal clear water and the sand was divine!”
20. Diakofti Beach, Kythira
“My happy place! Golden sand, turquoise waters and more than enough wonderful memories to see me through rainy UK winters.” –@pollynostimos
Well composed and packed with flavorful ingredients, Greek salads can’t be beat. Those flavors, however, do have room to be elevated. Simply use all the Greek salad mixings (tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, peppers, olives, feta) as a base and add ingredients you enjoy. For me, the addition of garbanzo beans and avocados takes this classic to new heights and greater textures. Plus, both garbanzo beans and avocados are heart healthy and nutrient rich. This garbanzo bean Greek salad is especially perfect for those fasting from meat or dairy during Lent.
Garbanzo bean salad: Loaded with vegetables, packed with nutrients, and tossed in a bright Greek dressing.
For the salad:
15 oz can garbanzo beans
1 English cucumber, optionally peeled and sliced in half
3 cups cherry and golden tomatoes, halved (or 4 diced tomatoes)
2 avocados, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
½ red onion, diced
½ cup pitted Kalamata olives
8 oz of feta cheese (optional-serve on the side or mix in)
For the dressing:
¼ cup olive oil
⅓ cup lemon juice
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon salt
Place the garbanzo beans in a colander and rinse well. Allow to drain well before using.
In a small bowl or a mason jar, make the dressing by whisking together the olive oil, lemon juice, minced garlic, oregano, salt, and pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning as you’d like
Place all vegetables, garbanzo beans, and olives into a large bowl and toss to combine.
Place all salad ingredients into a large bowl. Toss the salad with dressing and serve.
If you are planning to prepare this salad ahead of time or if you want to have leftovers, do not add all of the dressing and just dress the amount that will be consumed immediately. For freshness, add avocados before serving as well.