Baked Apples Stuffed With Walnuts

IMG_3802-001It’s autumn and the markets are teeming with apples…apples to eat as a snack, apples for making apple sauce, apples for pies and apples for baking. Here in Ontario, we must have at least 10 varieties in the marlet – people love apples!

This recipe is quick, easy and it uses ingredients most of us already have in our pantry. Basically we’re peeling/coring apples, stuffing them with a mixture of walnuts, brown sugar and spices and we bake them.

You can play with the spice blend or use another nut (almonds would work) and bake away. Of course, apples and spices pair well with ice cream – a no-brainer.IMG_3759-002

Baked Apples Stuffed With Walnuts

(serves 6)

6 apples (Granny Smith, Fuji, Gala or Northern Spy)

4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened

1 cup brown sugar

1 cup chopped walnuts

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp. ground clove

1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg

1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

1 cup orange juice or apple cider

1/2 cup maple syrup

French Vanilla ice cream

Pre-heated 375F oven

  1. In a medium bowl, mix the butter, sugar, cinnamon, clove, nutmeg and vanilla, set aside. Lightly grease the sides of a round/oval 8X12 in. shallow baking vessel.
  2. Peel and core the apples and place in your baking vessel then press the nut filling into each cavity with a spoon and press down with your finger.
  3. Gently pour the juice over and around the apples,  cover loosely with foil and baked for 30 minutes. Remove the foil, baste the apples with juices and bake for another 30-35 minutes or until golden brown and apples are cooked through (use a thin wooden skewer to pierce/check for apples’ doneness).
  4. Remove from the oven, spoon juices over apples and drizzle maple syrup as well. Allow to cool for 10 minutes. Serve warm with ice cream.

Baked Mushrooms Stuffed With Kefalotyri Cheese

Kalofagas Oct 19 2014-0688This appetizer was served this past Sunday at my Naoussa-themed Greek Supper Club featuring Thymiopoulos Wines. It’s a rich little bit but ohhh so delicious. This offering is an appetizer so a little decadence is okay and besides, this is an easy appetizer to serve for the coming holiday season.

Basically we’re stuffing mushroom caps with a bechamel sauce that has melted cheese in it plus some accents of garlic and ginger. A little more cheese is sprinkled on each mushroom and in the oven they go. A little fresh chives are sprinkled after they come out of the oven then pop pop pop they go into your mouths.Kalofagas Oct 19 2014-0689

Baked Mushrooms Stuffed With Kefalotyri Cheese

(serves 6)

approx. 24 small to medium sized white button mushrooms

1 Tbsp. unsalted butter or olive oil

1 Tbsp. all purpose flour

1 cup warm whole milk

1 clove of minced garlic

1 Tbsp. fresh grated ginger

1/2 cup grated Graviera or Gouda cheese

1/3 cup grated Kefalotyri cheese (or Romano Peccorino)

1/4 tsp. fresh ground pepper

+ 1/2 cup combined grated gouda and Kefalotyri cheese for topping

1/4 cup chopped fresh chives

  1. Wipe your mushrooms with a damp towel to remove any dirt/grit then twist off the stems (use for stock or soup). Place on a baking sheet and reserve.
  2. Into a medium pot, add your butter over medium heat and once melted, add the flour and stir for a minute with a wooden spoon. While stirring , slowly add the milk and continue to stir. You may now add the garlic and ginger and once thickened to a bechamel, take off the heat.
  3. Add the grated cheeses, ground pepper and allow to cool (cover with plastic wrap so a crust doesn’t form.
  4. Once your bechamel has cooled, transfer to a piping bag with a small nozzle and pipe the filling into your mushroom caps.
  5. Sprinkle remaining grated cheese on top and place in a pre-heated 350F oven for 20-25 minutes (cheese should be melted).
  6. Take out of the oven, sprinkle chopped fresh chives on top and serve warm.

 

 

Baked Oysters Onassis

IMG_2548-002This is my Greek take on Oysters Rockefeller, a dish so rich that it was named after the wealthy Rockefeller family in the US. This dish originated in New Orleans and up to the 80’s it appeared on many steak and seafood restaurant menus.

My Greek take on this classic includes use of a Bechamel, a cooking method introduced by Nikos Tselementes, a man who cooked in Paris hotels and has forever changed the landscape of Greek cuisine.

Spinach, of course is identifiable in Greek cooking and I’ve added Ouzo into the mix and of course, fresh dill. My Rockefeller redux even gets a cheese switch-up with my use of sharp Kefalotyri cheese made from sheep’s milk and a hint of nutmeg.

A little bit of Greek decadence, fit for Ari Onassis. I think the Greek Tycoon would have loved these!IMG_2546-001

Baked Oysters Onassis

(serves 4)

Bechamel

3 Tbsp. unsalted butter  (or olive oil)

3 Tbsp. all purpose flour

1 1/2 cups of warm whole milk

1/2 cup grated Kefalotyri cheese (or sharp Romano)

1/8 tsp. fresh grated nutmeg

For the Spinach

2 cups blanched fresh spinach, hand-squeezed of excess water, finely chopped

2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

6-7 scallions, finely chopped

1 Tbsp. of minced garlic

1/4 cup of Ouzo

1/4 chopped fresh dill

salt and pepper to taste

Breadcrumb topping

1 cup of breadcrumbs

1/2 stick of butter, melted

The oysters

12 good sized fresh oysters

3-4 cups coarse sea salt

large flat baking tray

Garnishes

1/2 cup grated Kefalotyri cheese

fresh dill

wedges of lemon

extra-virgin olive oil

Pre-heated 450F oven

  1. For the bechamel, add the butter to a medium pot and melt over medium heat then add the flour and stir in for a minute. Add the milk in increments, stir in, repeat until the milk is amalgamated and your bechamel has thickened. Take off the heat, add the grated cheese, nutmeg and stir in until cheese has melted in. Adjust with salt and pepper, allow to cool.
  2. For the spinach, place a skillet on the stovetop over medium heat and add the olive oil, scallions and garlic and sweat for 5 minutes. Add the Ouzo and reduce until there is barely any liquid left. Take off the heat and allow to cool. Add the chopped spinach, dill and stir in. Now add the spinach mixture into the cooled bechamel and stir in. Adjust flavouring with salt and pepper, reserve.
  3. Melt your butter and add to your breadcrumbs and stir/mix with a spoon. Pre-heat your oven to 450F.
  4. Spread the sea salt on your baking sheet and set aside. Now, carefully shuck your oysters and place on the sea salt (the salt keeps the oysters level and from spilling their liqueur.
  5. Place a spoonful of spinach mixture into each oyster then top each with breadcrumbs and the remaining grated cheese. Place on the rack on the top third of the oven and bake for 8-10 minutes or until tops are golden.
  6. Remove from the oven, place on a platter, anoint with extra-virgin olive oil, serve with lemon wedges and dill garnishes. Serve with Hinterland Rose 2011 Method Traditional.IMG_2542-001

 

 

 

 

Paximadia With Figs, Star Anise & Walnuts

I came up with this recipe after having an epiphany that I must once again have and enjoy the flavour combo of walnuts and figs in a recent salad with this same glorious pairing of walnuts and figs. In that post, encouraged you to place a walnut and dried fig in your mouth to prove my point. Today, I’m encouraging you to try these Paximadia with figs, walnuts and ground star anise.

You could call these biscotti but us Greeks call them Paximadia. Paximadia or dried rusks/breads which have been around since ancient times. Cookbook author Georgia Koufinas says that Paximadia used to be called “dipyros”, which means “twice baked’. The Greek word Paximadi can be traced to a barley rusk named after a late Hellenistic Period cook named Paxamus (1st Century AD). Paximadia were the food of the poor as they were made of coarse grain flours and kept well on long journeys thereby earning it’s place in the pantries of farmers and sailors. Paximadia were the basic food of Byzantine armies and later the Venetian armies. Italians call Paximadia “biscotti”, also meaning “twice baked”.

The third flavourful ingredient for these Paximadia is star anise. Reminiscent of anise but much more complex, exotic and wonderful with figs. Star anise is not a widely used spice in Greece but that’s not to say it’s not used at all either. At a tour/visit of the Tsantali Ouzo Distillery in Halkidiki and I learned that star anise was one of the ingredients used to make their Ouzo. Ouzo is made from grapes and stems so therefore it’s only fitting than some Petimezi sneaks into the recipe. Petimezi* is a grape molasses and I’ve diluted it here with some water and brushed the tops of the Paximadia with it so that the sesame seeds adhere well.

So, naturally a shot of Ouzo also made it’s way into this easy recipe. This recipe is wonderful for the Christmas holidays and holiday entertaining it’s in full stride and the almost potpourri aromas that fills your home while baking these will set you in the mood for Christmas. These are the perfect accompaniment for coffee or tea and I look forward to dunking a paximadi into my Greek coffee.

For the Paximadia With Figs, Star Anise & Walnuts recipe, please buy my Everything Mediterranean cookbook.

If you are not reading this post in a feed reader or at  http://kalofagas.ca then the site you are reading is illegally publishing copyrighted material. Contact me at truenorth67 AT gmail DOT COM. All recipes, text and photographs in this post are the original creations & property of the author.

© 2007-2010 Peter Minakis

Nistisima Paximadia

Here I am, mid-week into the first week of Lent. The first day is the hardest and then each day it becomes easier and easier. One meal that’s a challenge is breakfast. I eat breakfast, rarely skip and when I do, I fell out or sorts – almost ill for the rest of the day. Eat your breakfast folks.

With breakfast options being restricted (no butter, no cream for coffee and no cheese or eggs, I leave the table in the morning a little hungry. Part of the solution are these Lenten (Nistisima) Paximadia. Paximadia are, a twice baked cookie that’s perfect for having with coffee.

I’ve been enjoying anew my Greek coffee (one in the morning and one in the afternoon) and a Paximadi or Kouloraki is always nice to have/serve with the coffee. These Paximadia are Lent-friendly in that there are no eggs or dairy…just flour, spices, sugar, and orange juice and zest and some white wine.

These Paximadia will not get you drunk but they will making fasting a little easier. Grab your notepad, I’ll put the coffee on and we can dream about that Easter Feast coming in early April.

Nistisima Paximadia

zest and juice of 1 orange

3/4 cup vegetable (sunflower) oil

1/2 cup dry white wine

1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp. ground cloves

3/4 cup sugar

1/4 tsp. baking soda

1 heaping Tbsp. baking powder

1/2 cup almonds

3 cups of all purpose flour (+ more if necessary)

sesame seeds

Pre-heated 350F oven

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 350F. In a food processor, add the orange juice, zest, wine, vegetable oil, cinnamon, cloves, baking soda, baking powder and sugar. Process until mixed well. Now add your almonds and pulse until they look like they are roughly chopped.
  2. Empty the contents into a large bowl and now gradually add your flour and mix in with your hands. You will need  approx. 3 cups of flour. Your dough should be smooth to the feel and not tacky. Add more flour if needed.
  3. Gather your dough and knead it into a ball. Turn onto your work surface and divide into 3 pieces. Form into three loaves. Place some sesame seeds on some parchment and then place a loaf of dough in it. Wrap the parchment around the loaf so that the sesame seeds adhere to the dough. Repeat with the other two loaves.
  4. Place the sheet of parchment paper on your baking tray and lay your three loaves of dough on top. Place your tray on the middle rack and bake for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and cut the loaves into slices with a serrated knife. Arrange the cookie slices flat on the baking tray.
  5. Turn down the heat of your oven to 300F and bake for another 10 minutes. Now turn off your oven and allow the cookies to cool in the still warm oven.
  6. Remove the Paximadia and store in an airtight container for up to 6 weeks.

If you are not reading this post in a feed reader or at  http://kalofagas.ca then the site you are reading is illegally publishing copyrighted material. Contact me at truenorth67 AT gmail DOT COM. All recipes, text and photographs in this post are the original creations & property of the author.

© 2007-2010 Peter Minakis

Tsoureki – Greek Easter Bread For Sale

IMG_3701-2This year, Easter falls on April 20th and for us Greeks (and many Orthodox Christians) it wouldn’t be the same without Tsoureki at the table. Last year I sold some Tsourekia and the response was tremendous and the feedback was all positive. People loved my Tsoureki!

For those asking, Tsoureki is an Easter brioche with aromas of mastiha, mahlepi, orange zest and it’s texture is light, fluffy – I could eat the whole loaf!

I am now taking pre-orders for Easter Tsourekia, for pick-up only in the east-end of Toronto, cash/paypal.

LAST ORDER ACCEPTED APRIL 12th, each Tsoureki is $10.

Email me at truenorth67 AT gmail.com to place your order.

Baked Keftedes With Onions & Korres

IMG_3234-001Many of the comforting dishes on this blog come from recipes my Dad loves to eat or in some cases, his recipes that he makes (and shares). My father loves keftedes, Greek meat patties if you will. He loves pasta and my parents tell me about homemade pasta they used to enjoy as children when they were growing up in Florina (northern Greece).

These were egg noodles, made without a pasta machine – simply rolled out then cut into broad noodles and left to dry out and stored in pillow cases. They resemebled thick bread crusts and in Florina they call these egg noodles “kores”.IMG_2521

The base flavouring for this dish is onions, lots of onions, some red peppers, garlic, tomatoes and of course, the olive oil. Simplicity rules here – basic execution and just use quality products like a good ground beef, tomato paste (or fresh tomatoes when in season), and if possible, homemade or good egg noodles.

The result, a comforting plate of noodles in a tomato and onion sauce, aromatic and moist keftedes and all you need is spinkle of Boukovo, grated cheese and a glass of wine.IMG_3219-001

Baked Keftedes With Onions & Korres

(serves 4)

1lb. Keftedes recipe

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

6 medium onions, peeled and sliced

3 cloves of garlic, minced

1 red bell pepper, finely diced

1 tsp. sweet paprika

2 Tbsp. tomato paste OR 3 large ripe tomatoes, grated

250 gr. broad egg noodles

4 1/2 cups hot stock or water

1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley

salt and pepper to taste

Garnishes

sprinkle of Boukovo (chilli flakes) or fresh ground black pepper

grated dry Mizithra cheese

Pre-heated 375F oven

  1. Prepare the recipe for 1lb. of Keftedes, form into palm-sized patties and reserve. Meanwhile, place a oven safe large but shallow Dutch oven on your stovetop over medium-low heat. Add the olive oil, onions, garlic, peppers and sweat for 15 minutes or until onions are soft, translucent.
  2. Add the tomato paste, paprika and stir in, cooking for 2 minutes. Add the stock and bring up to a boil then add the noodles, parsley, salt and pepper to taste and once boiling again, place uncovered in the pre-heated oven for 30 minutes.
  3. Take out of the oven and place the keftedes on top and return to the oven for another 20-30 minutes or until the the liquid has been absorbed and the keftedes have browned on top.
  4. Take out of the oven, allow to rest 10 minutes before serving. Divide and plate and top with Boukovo and grated dry Mizithra. Serve with Kir Yanni Paranga.IMG_3239-001

 

Lagana (λαγάνα)

IMG_8002Lagana is very reminiscent of foccacia, another flat bread. The Lagana is a bread that’s tradionally baked for consumption on the first day of Greek Lent, Clean Monday.The Lagana is very easy to make and if you mix a batch of dough this evening or start tomorrow evening, you can have home-baked Langana for Kathera Deftera (Clean Monday).

The dough recipe is a riff on the Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes master recipe and the dough is easy, forming the Laganes are simple and the result? Delicious.

The traditional topping for Lagana are sesame seeds. Now’s not the time for recipe twists.IMG_8009

Lagana (λαγάνα)

(makes 2)

baking sheet covered with parchment paper

2 tsp. of active dry yeast

1 tsp. of sugar

1 1sp. of coarse sea salt

1 1/2  cups of room temperature water

3 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour

Sesame seeds

Pre-heated 375F oven

  1. In a largebowl, add your luke-warm water, yeast and sugar and stir to mix. Allow the yeast a few minutes to activate. Now add the flour and the salt and mix thoroughly with a heavy wooden spoon. You may also use your bread mixing attachment on your Kitchenaid (or whatever brand you have). If the dough mixture still looks to dry, add some more water in increments.
  2. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow to rise for 60-90 minutes or until doubled in size. min. You may do this step just before bedtime too!
  3. Take the wrap off the bowl, treat your hands with some flour, punch the dough down and empty onto your work surface. Divide the dough into two.
  4. Using your hands (treat with flour), form your Laganes (should be rectangular shaped  with rounded ends) with your fingers. Pinch, rotate and let gravity help you form the shape. Place each piece of dough on your parchment-covered baking sheet ( 2 Laganes to each tray) and continue to form the Lagana by stretching it into shape.
  5. Allow the dough to rest and rise again for another 45-60 minutes. Pre-heat your oven to 375F oven (middle rack). Sprinkle each Lagana with sesame seeds.
  6. Fifteen minutes before baking,  using your fingertips, poke-down each Lagana to deflate and make indents. Place in the oven and bake for 30-35 minutes. Place on a cooling rack to…well, cool.IMG_8003

If you are not reading this post in a feed reader or at  http://kalofagas.ca then the site you are reading is illegally publishing copyrighted material. Contact me at truenorth67 AT gmail DOT COM. All recipes, text and photographs in this post are the original creations & property of the author.

© 2007-2010 Peter Minakis

Braised Lamb Pastitsio

IMG_2303This dish came about after having some leftover lamb shanks and like any frugal Greek, one should never throw out good food. Re-invent, remake, reuse. If you don’t have leftovers, then this dish is a little more involved as you will have to braise the lamb shanks to make but it won’t take you that much longer to make than a classic Pastitsio using ground meat.

As a recap, Pastitsio is a baked pasta dish with one layer on the bottom, meat in the middle followed by another layer of pasta then topped with a thick Bechamel sauce. Ideally, thick hollow pasta is used and if you have a Greek grocer nearby, ask them for Pastitsio pasta. Otherwise, bucatini or penne will do.IMG_2182-001

IMG_2184-001

For this delicious take on Pastitsio, I pull the tender cooked meat off the shanks and lightly break up the meat into small pieces. I don’t want stringy pulled meat – I like some texture. Add in some of the tomato sauce that the shanks braised in and you can begin making this haute yet still rustic Pastitio. Let’s!IMG_2295

Braised Lamb Pastitsio

(serves 10-12)

8 braised lamb shanks + sauce (recipe here)

500 gr. package of Pastitsio pasta (or penne)

8 cups of Bechamel sauce

grated Kefalotyri cheese

9″ X 13″ deep roasting pan, greased with butter

Pre-heated 375F oven

  1. Execute a recipe for braising 8 lamb shanks and as soon as the lamb is cool enough to handle, pull the meat off the bone, break into bite sized pieces and toss in enough tomato sauce (from the braise) to generously coat the meat. Reserve.
  2. Bring a large pot of water to boil and then season well with salt and add the pasta and cook for about 6 minutes. Strain and toss in a little oil (prevent clumping). Set aside.
  3. Make one recipe of Bechamel, as per the recipe here.
  4. Place half your cooked pasta in the bottom of your pan and add one ladle of Bechamel and gently toss to coat (this will act as a glue for your bottom layer.
  5. Now spread your lamb meat evenly over the entire surface of the pasta and pour extra tomato sauce (if needed). Top with the remaining pasta then pour over the Bechamel sauce and spread evenly with a spatula. Sprinkle grated Kefalotyri cheese over the Bechamel and place in your pre-heated oven for 45-50 minutes or until top is golden.
  6. Take out of the oven and allow to cool for an hour before cutting (otherwise your Pastitsio will flop on your plate). Serve with a side salad and pair with a bottle of Paros Syllogi Moraitis.IMG_2189-001

 

 

 

Vasilopita

IMG_1747A belated Happy New Year to everyone and health and happiness in 2014!

As the New Year rolls over, Greek families all over the world will share the tradition of cutting the Vasilopita, our Greek New Year’s cake. January 1st is the name day (saint’s day) of Aghios Vassilis (St. Basil), the Greek Santa Claus, and the cake is named in his honor. While Christmas is a more solemn occasion, January 1st is filled with celebrations and the exchange of gifts.

However it’s fixed, cutting the Vasilopita is a celebration of wishes for the new year.

Each Vasilopita is baked with a coin or medallion hidden inside which, according to tradition, will bring great good fortune in the new year to the person who gets it, so the cutting is all-important and the focus of great scrutiny! Traditionally, pieces are cut ceremoniously by the head of the household and allocated to the church (Holy Trinity and Virgin Mary), then the head of the household (male), his wife, their children (oldest to youngest), other family members by degree of relatedness, then guests.IMG_1657

Vasilopita

1 cup unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups sugar

3 cups all purpose flour

pinch of salt
6 large eggs (whites & yolks separated)

1  shot of orange liqueur
1  Tbsp. of baking powder

zest of 1 orange

10inch round spring form pan

Pre-heated 350F oven

 

  1. Whip your egg whites into a meringue and reserve. In a large bowl, use a mixer to blend the butter, sugar and add yolks, one at a time.
  2. Add the liqueur and the zest then add the flour, salt and baking powder. Slowly fold the meringue into the batter.
  3. Place a foil-wrapped coin randomly into the cake mix.
  4. Bake on the middle rack for 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool on a rack for an hour.
  5. Make a paper stencil of the new year you’re celebrating, place it on the cake and dust the top of the cake with icing sugar. Remove stencil and reserve to cut at New Year’s.