All posts tagged: greeks

Vegetable Soup

This vegetable soup uses a little this and a little of that. My papou (grandfather) Pete Saltas would make it using whatever vegetables he found in the kitchen. Some call this the “kitchen-sink soup” because everything and anything goes in (except the kitchen sink). To make this soup, start by giving the base vegetables a quick sauté, then just keep adding veggies to create layers of flavors. Don’t put everything in the pot at once and try to let each vegetable or vegetable combos cook alone for awhile before adding the next one. And as you should always do with soups or stews, the trick is to simmer your meal low and slow so flavors blend together. A Greek cook might call this process pantremeni, which means “to be married.” Start with tougher vegetables such as carrots, peppers, and cabbage, and then add those that take less time to cook such as mushrooms, tomatoes, and zucchini. For the broth, use a combination of vegetable stock, tomato sauce, olive oil and water. Depending on your own tastes, you …

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. Ingredients: 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 Directions: 1. Bring a large pot of water to boil (enough to submerge cabbage). Wash the cabbage, cut the stem …

5 Favorite Beaches in Crete

Greece’s largest island, Crete, provides hundreds of beautiful beaches that draws crowds in the summer months. Below are just five of my favorites, plus some extra suggestions for you to check out on your next visit to Crete. Do you have a favorite? Please comment and share 🙂 Falassarna Beach: I’ve taken some of my best photos on Falassarna, catching shots of the big waves and vibrant skies. My favorite beach in all of Crete, Falassarna stretches far along the coast and makes an especially nice spot for sunset lovers since the beach faces west. There’s no need for an Instagram filter or Photoshop, the natural beauty of Falassarna does all the work. Elafonisi: The early bird gets the worm, or better, a sunbed to lie on at the always-crowded Elafonisi beach. Don’t let the crowds deter you, though. Elafonisi is one of the most sought-out beaches in the world for good reason: the pretty pink sand contrasts brilliantly with the tranquil turquoise water. Talk about paradise! Do visit, but be diligent in picking up …

Makaronia me Kima (Spaghetti with meat sauce)

Whether you’re a novice or an expert cook, or somewhere in between, you’ll want to add MAKARONIA ME KIMA to your repertoire. At very least you should know how to make the latter portion, the kima. In Greek, kima means minced, and in this case the word implies the minced or ground beef sauce. The kima alone will win friends and influence eaters. After all, once you have that special meat sauce, you can serve it like chili, pile between bread slices for sloppy joes, eat it plain, or serve it hot as we Greeks do over a bed of makaronia (any style of your favorable pasta). My favorite is the long noodle variety often used in pastitsio. With makaronia me kima (mah-kah-ROH-neea meh kee-MAH) the meat sauce pretty much prepares itself once the ingredients begin simmering in the pot. How I love a practically effortless meal! All that’s left to do is boil your pasta and grate some flavorful cheese to top it off. Mizithra, Kefalotyri, or Parmesan cheese are standard. Don’t be stingy …

Fanouropita (St. Fanourios Cake)

There are hundreds of saints in the Greek Orthodox Church that can be called upon for special purposes or during times of need. The three Hierarchs, St. Basil the Great, St. John Chrysostom, and St. Gregory the Theologian, are called upon for help in studies. I wish I had known that during my anatomy classes. Believers pray to St. Nicholas of Myra for safe travels. Instead of using Advil for a headache, they ask the Holy New Martyr Demas to intercede. There are saints we pray to for help in finding a job, getting pregnant, having a safe childbirth, and there are saints to help when we are in distress. Have you lost something and need help finding it? There’s a saint for that too. Saint Fanourious (from the Greek word fanerono meaning “to reveal”) intercedes to help us find lost possessions and to reveal life paths and goals. Like all Orthodox saints, Saint Fanourios has his own commemoration date each year. On August 27th, his name day, cooks bake a special cake in his honor …

Spetzofai

Greek cuisine is a lot of things—healthy, fresh, flavorful, and unforgettable. Basically, the only thing Greek cuisine typically isn’t is spicy. Well, all except for my beloved Spetzofai. Spetzofai shouts with flavor, the colorful peppers and thick sausage making nice with the sausage. The spicy meter level depends on you and the peppers you choose. My personal spetzofai spicy meter is a solid ten, while my family’s is a five on a good day. So we settle on keeping this dish at a mild seven. Spetzofai includes a variety of red, yellow, green, and orange bell peppers for color, making it one of the prettiest dishes in all of Greek cooking. I add jalapeños (or even habaneros) for extra heat. You can leave out the spicy peppers if hot isn’t your thing, or add more if you dare. As for the sausage, just pick the variety you like. Stick to a single favorite or try a variety of sausages mixed together so that each bite offers a new surprise. Make sure to use one giant pan …

Pete’s Tzatziki

Go to your fridge right now and open it up. Do you have a bowl of TZATZIKI in there? If yes, pat yourself on the back. If you answered no, you are missing one of life’s great go-with-everything dips. Tzatziki (tsa-TZEE-kee) ranks as one of my favorite dips. Also known as “that white stuff,” you’ll find it smothered on gyros (pronounced YEE-rohs, not GY-rohs, please) and is made of thick Greek yogurt, fresh cucumbers and herbs—plus a generous amount of garlic that will sneak up on you whether you (and anyone near you for the next three days) like it or not. As much as I love eating tzatziki, I’m more of a tzatziki eater than maker because my brother, Pete, has dubbed himself the tzatziki king in our family. Pete won’t let anyone else make it. He won’t even let anyone watch him make it. He’s never shared his recipe with anyone until now. I basically had to start a blog and beg him for it with the promise to make him famous to …

Dolmades (Stuffed Grape Leaves)

DOLMADES (dol-MAH-thes) are bite sized finger foods wrapped with grape or cabbage leaves and stuffed with all the goods—rice, meat, and plenty of herbs. Versatility makes dolmades just plain wonderful to keep in your kitchen repertoire. You can top them with a tomato sauce or avgolemono sauce (egg-lemon sauce), serve them plain with a generous amount of lemon on top, or even pinwheel them alongside tzatziki. I love to vary the fillings as well, creating meatless dolmades or stuffing them with whatever herbs and seasonings call my name that day. As appetizing as they look, these little taste masterpieces can be intimidating to make. Take heart and take your time, because no one wants to be bested by a food roll. Having said that, the intimidation begins with the rolling. Hand rolling comes with the territory, and 20 minutes in you’ll wonder how many more dolmades you have to roll before you can finally dig in. I assure you, the end result is worth every frustration. You’ll even discover making dolmades is actually quite simple once you …

Stifado me Manitaria (Mushroom Stifado)

My whole life, I’ve randomly craved a specific food or cuisine that eventually led to weeks of indulgence in it. A couple of years ago I went complete left field of Greek cuisine and made stir-fry every other day. Another time it was protein pancakes. Now it’s mushroom everything. Whenever I dine I order a mushroom omelet or mushroom burger, and at least once a week I’ll whip up a quick dinner of mushrooms, onions, garlic, olive oil and wine. It’s simple, tasty, and any leftover wine is always put to good use for drinking. Being mushroom obsessed, I began searching for different ways to cook the fleshy fungus, with a Greek style. That’s when I found a great recipe on “The Greek Vegan,” a blog by Kiki Vagianos that’s dedicated to sharing healthy Greek vegan recipes. Her MUSHROOM STIFADO it inspired me to make my own version. I couldn’t believe I had never thought to substitute mushrooms for the meat. Now those long days of fasting from meat will be much easier. My recipe …

Karpouzi Salata (Watermelon Salad)

If you’ve been looking for a quick, refreshing salad that is perfect on any summery day of the week, then look no further than KARPOUZI SALATA (watermelon salad). You may already have tried this popular summer dish at a picnic. Or maybe you’ve seen it on Instagram and felt dizzy just looking at the juicy karpouzi (kar-POU-zee) mixed with salty feta cheese only to notice that your phone is dripping in drool. My best guess is that if you haven’t heard of karpouzi salata you’re wondering how feta ever made it into the same bowl as watermelon. Talk about the odd couple. I wondered the same thing for many years. To be honest, I used to run faster from karpouzi and feta than I did from my yiayia’s koutala (her wooden spanking spoon). Feta was supposed to be eaten with olives, or topped on Greek salads, or stuffed in phyllo pies. Karpouzi was the mouth-watering fruit served to you after a picnic. The word is shouted along with peponia (melon) by local vendors in markets …