Beautiful Lemon Cake

Lemon Cake is a childhood favorite of mine. In Greek cuisine, lemon is used abundantly. We put it in everything. I love lemons so much, I actually eat them raw.  And lemons have huge health benefits!  They help with digestion and weight loss, are great for the skin, and they hydrate and cleanse the body. But I primarily drink lemon juice because I just love it!

Lemon Cake

 

I also think that desserts made with lemons are absolutely delicious. Because lemon sort of balances out the sweetness and gives the dessert a freshness. For example, lemon tart (or Tarte au Citron as my French friends would say :)) has a light texture that leaves you with a fresh taste, especially after a meaty meal.

So, I decided to make Lemon Cake. My 2 year old James loves it also. And it’s wonderful to have homemade goodies for the little ones. In this recipe I use lemon glaze on top. To regulate the sweetness, I go lighter on the sugar in the recipe.

 

Making the lemon cake

The first thing you want to do is get the butter going. So before you gather your ingredients together, take the butter out of the fridge and  and bring it to room temperature. It should be soft, but not melting. Put it in the mixer bowl and start creaming it. For around 5 mins, until its fluffy.

In the meantime, gather the rest of the ingredients for your lemon cake and get your oven going at 180 C / 350 F. After 5 mins add the sugar to the butter and mix for another 5 mins. Now, add the lemon zest and eggs, alternating between the two. Mix for another 2 mins or so.

In a bowl, mix all the dry ingredients together: flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Now what you want to do is add the dry mixture to the batter, alternating with the liquid ingredients. So add a few tbsps of the dry mixture and then add some lemon juice. After that add the dry ingredients again and some butter milk and vanilla. And continue repeating this process until you have a nice creamy batter. It should take you around 10 mins.  At the end taste the batter and see if you wish to adjust with sugar or lemon. It’s a matter of personal taste really!

 

Grease a cake pan generously with butter and add the cake mixture.  Bake this beauty in the oven for 50 mins to 1 hr at 180 C / 350 F. Baking time can vary from oven to oven, so just insert a cake tester or toothpick or… a wooden souvlaki skewer in my case lol. Well I did you know, it’s thin enough and does the trick 🙂 So if it comes out clean, its ready.

Take it out of the oven and let it cool down. Drizzle with lemon glaze.

 

Making the Lemon cake glaze

In a bowl sift the confectioners sugar and add the lemon juice tbsp by tbsp. Mix until combined. For a thick glaze it’s about 1 1/2 cup confectioners sugar to 4 tbsps lemon juice. If you like it thinner, add more lemon juice.

Beautiful Lemon Cake

This is a beautiful, light and lemony cake. It will make you crave for more and lift your spirits with its zesty aroma. Perfect match for a Sunday afternoon with tea or coffee. 

  • 230 g (8 oz) unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cup sugar
  • the zest of 3 lemons
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt

Lemon Glaze

  • 1 1/2 cup confectioners sugar
  • 4 tbsps lemon juice

Making the Lemon Glaze

  1. In a bowl sift the confectioners sugar and add the lemon juice tbsp by tbsp. Mix until combined. For a thick glaze it’s about 1 1/2 cup confectioners sugar to 4 tbsps lemon juice. If you like it thinner, add more lemon juice.

Making the cake

  1. Take the butter out of the fridge and  and bring it to room temperature. It should be soft, but not melting. Put it in the mixer bowl and start creaming it. For around 5 mins, until its fluffy.

  2. Gather the rest of the ingredients and get the oven going at 180 C / 350 F. 

  3. After 5 mins add the sugar to the butter and mix for another 5 mins. Now, add the lemon zest and eggs, alternating between the two. Mix for another 2 mins or so.

  4. In a bowl, mix all the dry ingredients together: flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

  5. Add a few tbsps of the dry mixture and then add the liquid ingredients, alternating between the dry ingrediens mixture and the liquid ones. 

  6. Mix for 10 mins and taste to check if it needs adjustment. 

  7. Grease a cake pan generously with butter and add the cake mixture. Bake it for 50 mins to 1 hr at 180 C / 350 F.

  8. Take it out of the oven and let it cool down. Drizzle with lemon glaze.

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Juicy Pork Chops with Wine

This post is meant to introduce you to my fav pork chop recipe. I love pork. It’s a great meat and I really love how the flavor changes depending on the method of cooking. Pork chops are a great weekday dinner for those who want to quickly prepare something nutritious and healthy. They taste great on Sundays too LOL! Here I feature an easy and flavorful pork chop recipe. Let’s make ’em!

Preparing your pork chops

It really is very easy to get them going. First, what I do is give the meat a thorough wash. Then I pat it dry really well with kitchen towels. The dryer it is, the more it will brown and be crispy. The next thing is to slice a clove of garlic in two lengthwise. Get the garlic half and press it on the pork chop firmly. Start rubbing it all over the meat on both sides. Great! Then just season your pork chops with salt and pepper and they are ready for the pan!

Cooking the pork chops

The chops that I got were about an inch thick (ard 2.5 cm) and it took me about 11 minutes to cook them in total. So let’s cut straight to the point. Bring your skillet over medium-high heat and place the meat directly on it. Brown the chops for 2 mins each side. You want to see a golden brown color start forming.

Second, you add the wine. Pour a splash of wine on top and it will go “Shooouuushhh” haha. White or red, either will do just fine. Flip the chops, both sides should be in the wine for maybe a minute or so.  At this point, you will add the oil and lower the heat to medium-low. Pour just a bit of olive oil on top of the chops and turn them once more. You should have around 4 minutes left of cooking. Turn the pork chops once or twice more. A total of 11 minutes cooking should give you a cooked through tender pink chop. If you are using a thermometer it will register about 63 C / 145 F internal temp. If you prefer your meat cooked more, give it another 2 mins, totally up to you.

 

 

Once it’s done, remove from the pan and place on a plate. Drizzle the pan juices on top and let it sit for a few minutes – if you can wait haha. Serve with some tomato-cucumber salad and enjoy your dinner.

Juicy Pork chops with wine

Pork chops are a great dinner any time of the week. Juicy and tender with a minimum cooking time. They are a very healthy option too. They go very well with salad or any type of greens.

  • 2 whole pork chops, inch (2.5 cm) thick
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/4 cup wine
  • olive oil
  1. Wash your meat thoroughly and pat it dry really well with kitchen towels. 

  2. Cut a garlic clove in two lengthwise and rub it all over the meat on both sides. Season with salt and pepper.

  3. Bring your skillet over medium-high heat and place the meat directly on it. Brown the chops for 2 mins each side. 

  4. Pour a splash of wine on top and flip the chops around. 

  5. At this point, you will add a little bit of oil and lower the heat to medium-low.

  6. Cook for 4 more mins turning the chops once or twice more. 

  7. Once it’s done, remove from the pan and place on a plate. Drizzle the pan juices on top and let it sit for a few minutes. 

A total of 11 minutes cooking should give you a cooked through tender pink chop. If you are using a thermometer it will register about 63 C / 145 F internal temp. If you prefer your meat cooked more, give it another 2 mins.

 

 

Aunt Kathy’s Eggplant Stew

Isn’t it wonderful when you come together with people that you love and create awesome food? My aunt Kathy that lives in New York but is of Greek heritage, is an excellent cook. She is a warm, loving person that’s there to support you always. She is eager to listen and gives constructive advice. She is like a second mother to me and she is one of those people that make this world a better place. Period! And she is a darn good cook! Oh yes, with a grand repertoire.

I was lucky to be able to spend some time with her while in Crete this summer and eat her wonderful dishes. One of them in particular I could never forget, her Eggplant Stew.  It was so delicious and full of summer notes, I harassed her until she agreed to teach me the recipe. I said “Theia (“aunt” in greek), I have to put this on my blog!”

Shortly after, we made the eggplant stew again, along with other delicacies and everybody gathered around the table for a wonderful dinner. Of course when I got home I had to make it for my own family, because we all love eggplant after all. Rob loved it, but also my little boy James turned out to be a big fan. So if you like eggplants like us, please please make this dish and tell me how it went.

Preparing the vegetables

Cut all the veggies in quarters, big chunks. Same with the onions. Then, slice the tomatoes and chop up the herbs – parsley or cilantro, whatever you are using.

 

Quarter the eggplants

Next step you lightly fry everything. I used my cast iron skillet. Not just because I love it, but also it’s easy to use on the stovetop and then just stick it in the oven. If you don’t have one, you can use any other oven safe skillet. Or just fry the veggies regularly and then throw them in a baking dish.

Alright so, take the skillet, and put in enough olive oil to cover the bottom and more. The vegetables will soak up lots of olive oil during frying. Bring it over medium to high heat and start frying the eggplants, zucchinis and peppers together, around 5 mins. When done set them aside in a colander with a plate underneath to collect the oil.

Making the sauce for the stew

In the same skillet, add some more olive oil as needed, saute the onion wedges for 1-2 mins. Thereafter, add the tomato slices and saute for 2 more mins. In goes the tomato puree, give it a stir and let it simmer for 2 mins. If your sauce is too thick, you probably need to add 1/4 cup of water. Simmer the sauce for 5 mins more or less, then add the chopped herbs at the last minute. If it looks watery, don’t worry it will make a nice sauce for your stew!

Putting it all together

Take the skillet off the fire. Remove almost 2/3 of the sauce and put aside. Spread the remainder as to cover the bottom (if you are using a baking dish, spread 1/3 of the sauce on the bottom of the baking dish).

Add all the veggies on top and tuck them in nice and tight. Pour the rest of the sauce on top and sprinkle with some more herbs. Stick your stew in the oven for 35-40 mins at 210 C / 410 F or until it is nicely browned on top. Enjoy!

Aunt Kathy's Eggplant Stew

A hearty dish full of eggplant flavour. The tomato sauce with herbs gives the overall dish an amazing taste. Filling and warming. Perfect for weekday dinner. 

  • 3 whole big eggplants, quartered
  • 4 whole small zucchinis, cut in big chunks
  • 2 whole onions, thick sliced
  • 2 whole peppers, quartered
  • handful of parsley or cilantro, chopped
  • 1 can chopped tomato (around 1 pound or 450 g)
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper

Preparing the veggies

  1. Cut all the veggies in quarters, big chunks. Then, slice the tomatoes and chop up the herbs.

  2. Lightly fry everything for about 5 mins in a cast iron skillet (or regular one will do just fine). Use oil abundantly, the eggplants will soak a lot. Set them aside in a colander with a plate underneath to collect the oil.

Making the sauce for the stew

  1. In the same skillet, add some more olive oil as needed, saute the onion wedges for 1-2 mins. Thereafter, add the tomato slices and saute for 2 more mins. 

  2. Next, add the tomato puree and let it simmer for 2 mins. If your sauce is too thick, add 1/4 cup of water. Simmer the sauce for 5 mins more or less, then add the chopped herbs at the last minute.

  3. Take the skillet off the fire. Remove almost 2/3 of the sauce and put aside. Spread the remainder as to cover the bottom (if you are using a baking dish, spread 1/3 of the sauce on the bottom of the baking dish). 

  4. Add all the veggies on top and tuck them in nice and tight. Pour the rest of the sauce on top and sprinkle with some more herbs. Stick your stew in the oven for 35-40 mins at 210 C / 410 F or until it is nicely browned on top. Enjoy!

Fruity Smoothie with Greek Honey

A smoothie is, at least for me, a great breakfast idea. I love fruits and sometimes you just need something light and not so filling. Plus, lets face it, who has time to make a full breakfast on a daily basis. As much as I love getting breakfast on the go, I also love a fruity smoothie. It’s healthy and it takes 2 minutes to make.

I think the key is a really good blender. If you don’t have a good blender, just don’t bother, like I did before I bought a really good one. When I was working full time and I didn’t have much time for breakfast, I did not even think about smoothies. Then I bought a good quality blender, which was a bit pricey. So I was somewhat hesitant. Nevertheless, I put it to good use. It’s super easy to handle and it takes literally 20 seconds to have a perfectly blended smoothie. Five years later I still drink my smoothies almost daily, plus I use it for James’s mashed fruits and veggies when I need to!

Breakfast in a jar!

Making the smoothie

Cut the banana in pieces, clean the carrot and cut it in two. Half  the peach and peel one slice of melon. Put all the fruits in the blender. Add the whole walnuts. Add the milk. Lastly add the honey – sometimes it sticks on the sides of the blender and you want to keep things easy. Blend it all together and enjoy your breakfast!

 

Blend everything together

Fruity Smoothie with Greek Honey

Healthy and supereasy breakfast smoothie. It tastes great too!

  • 1 slice melon, peeled
  • 1 medium banana (if small use two)
  • 1 peach , destoned
  • 6-7 whole walnuts
  • 1 tsp good quality honey (I used Greek honey)
  1. Cut the banana in pieces, clean the carrot and cut it in two. Half  the peach and peel one slice of melon. 

  2. Put all the fruits in the blender. Add the whole walnuts. Add the milk. Lastly add the honey – sometimes it sticks on the sides of the blender and you want to keep things easy. Blend it all together and enjoy your breakfast!

Zesty Spinach Salad with Chorizo

So we are back to Dubai. Happily. While it’s still tooo hot to be here, we are so happy to be home. However, it is only a tad cooler than June and July. Slowly the temp is going down and good weather is on the horizon! Woohoo!

I realized this week that I need to shed a few pounds. Which is due to the fact that I ate everything in Greece. Like EVERYTHING. I didn’t know where to begin and definitely not where to end. But I loved it! The fruit, especially peaches were so aromatic, my dad’s garden tomatoes and eggplants, the souvlakis that I put on my Insta. Nom nom! Guilt (ish) free! Haha. So today there’s salad on the menu. Spinach salad with chorizo (to keep things spicy!) and a zesty vinaigrette.

This salad is light and packed with flavor. I love chorizo in everything – salads, breakfast, even stews. Moreover, the vinaigrette is somewhat spicy due to the mustard. But, the orange juice balances it out with it’s sweetness. It’s got a nice bite to it. The dish takes less than 15 minutes to make! Yayyy! Light salad dinner (or lunch) here I come 🙂

 

To make the vinaigrette

In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, orange juice, mustard, white vinegar and honey until combined. You can make ahead and keep it in the fridge.

Making the vinaigrette

Assembling the spinach salad

Thoroughly wash the green leaves and dry the greens with a salad spinner or paper towels and put them in a bowl. Slice your chorizo and scatter it on top. Season with salt and pepper and grate some parmesan cheese. That’s it! Easy peasy. Dress your salad with the vinaigrette and it’s ready.

Tip: Though the salad is quite quick to make, you can also make ahead If you want. Make sure you dry the leaves very well and keep the salad ready in the fridge. Dress it at the last moment, so it doesn’t soak.

 

 

Zesty Spinach Salad with Chorizo

Zesty salad and so simple to make. Lots of Spinach, chorizo and parmesan cheese. Simply deliciousnees on your plate!

  • 1 pack spinach leaves (ard 80 g or 3 oz)
  • 1/2 pack rocket or arugula (ard 40 g or 1.5 oz)
  • salt and pepper
  • 120 g / ard 4 pz chorizo, sliced
  • grated parmesan

For the Vinaigrette

  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tsps regular mustard
  • the juice of half an orange
  • 1 tbsp white vinegar
  • 1 tsp honey

For the vinaigrette

  1. In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, orange juice, mustard, white vinegar and honey until combined. You can make ahead and keep it in the fridge.

To assemble the salad

  1. Wash the green leaves and dry them with a salad spinner or paper towels and put them in a bowl. 

  2. Slice your chorizo and scatter it on top. Season with salt and pepper and grate some parmesan cheese.

  3. Tip: Though the salad is quite quick to make, you can also make ahead If you want. Make sure you dry the leaves very well and keep the salad ready in the fridge. Dress it at the last moment, so it doesn’t soak.

 

Escargot with Rosemary – Cretan Kohli Boubouristi

My ramblings today are all about Escargot aka Snails.

I know, I know.

People don’t like escargot, in fact most people make a face of disgust when I tell them how much I enjoy cooked snails. I love them. I can clear off one whole plate in a matter of a few minutes.

 

Where I grew up in Crete, escargot are a local delicacy and in fact a widely beloved and often cooked dish. You can buy them at any open air food market. And many people – including my parents – pick them wild from the fields.

Life Cycle of Snails

 

 

 

In Crete, the rainy season starts around September/October. This is when the kohli wake up from summer estivation. They crawl all over the fields eating grass and leaves and they reproduce. This pretty much continues for 5-6 months which lasts all through the winter season. During this period they cannot be eaten, as they are too thin and have a bitter taste.

 

Later on around March the picking season starts. Snails dwell in fields up in the hills or in vineyards.  They are usually found under the stone or soil, or close to the vine trunks. Once picked, they are stored in crates and fed mostly flour and uncooked pasta. This feeding and tending period lasts about one month. It’s enough time for the kohli to fatten up and clean up.

At the end of this time they are ready for consumption and their taste is earthy and juicy, not bitter at all. As Snails don’t do well in heat, they stay dormant in their shell during the hot months. Starting in May, they seal their shell with a dry layer of mucus.  Source: Wikipedia.

Making the escargot

First, put the snails in a bowl full of water and let them sit for 4-5 mins to soak.

Soaking the snails

With a preferably toothy knife, remove the layer over the shell opening. Scrub the shell all around to clean it thoroughly. One by one.

 

 

Thereafter, sprinkle some salt straight on the bottom of a wide frying pan.

Put it over medium-high heat. Place the snails on the bottom face down. In Cretan dialect, boubouristi means with the face down. Hence kohli boubouristi, which basically means snails (cooked) face down. There. Moving along swiftly.

Tuck them in the pan nice and tight so they all fit and cook them for 3 mins.

Add a cup of water and cook them for 15-20 mins. You’ll see a greenish-yellow foam forming on the top

Remove the foam with a spoon as much as you can. After about 15-20 mins add the olive oil and sprigs of rosemary.

Taste the food and add some more salt if needed.

At this point, you probably want to add some extra water to make them extra juicy, about 1/3 cup.

Cook for 5-6 more mins. Towards the end, you add in the vinegar. Then cook them for 2 mins more and they are done. The snails are done when they are chewy and juicy (but not too chewy).

 

Don’t overcook them, because it will be harder to take them out of the shell. You can check their doneness by taking a fork with long tines and first tap them at the back of the shell and break it just a bit. Then turn the shell around looking at its opening. Pierce the fleshy part straight through and down a little. And then pull the flesh out towards you, turning your hand clockwise. Good luck!

Serve them in a plate with their juices.

 

Escargot with Rosemary

Escargot cooked with rosemary are a local delicacy in Crete. Consumed since antiquity on the island, they are a staple summer dish. Nevertheless, extremely rewarding for the wild ones that like to try new things.

  • 1.5 pounds (700 g) edible land snails or escargot
  • salt
  • 1 + 1/3 cup water
  • 1.5 cup olive oil
  • 6-7 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 100 ml (7 tbsps) red wine vinegar
  1. Soak the snails for 4-5 mins. With a toothy knife, remove the layer over the shell opening and scrub the dirt off the shell all around.

  2. Thereafter, sprinkle some salt straight on the bottom of a wide frying pan. The fire should be medium-high.  Tuck the snails all in tightly and face down. Cook them for 3 mins. 

  3. Add a cup of water and cook them for 15-20 mins. You’ll see a greenish-yellow foam forming on the top. Remove as much as you can with spoon. 

  4. Add the olive oil. Taste the salt and adjust.

  5. At this point, you probably want to add some extra water to make them extra juicy, about 1/3 cup.

  6. Cook for 5-6 more mins. Towards the end, add in the vinegar. Cook them for 2 mins. The snails are done when they are chewy and juicy (but not too chewy).

Don’t overcook them, because it will be harder to take them out of the shell. You can check their doneness by taking a fork with long tines and first tap them at the back of the shell and break it just a bit. Then turn the shell around looking at its opening. Pierce the fleshy part straight through and down a little. And then pull the flesh out towards you, turning your hand clockwise. 

Zucchini fritters – Greek Kolokithokeftedes

Summer is one of my favorite times of the year  – my number one is Christmas, but let’s not talk about Christmas right now lol. Summer to me is beautiful weather and clear blue waters. But most of all, I love the carefreeness that comes with it. Reminds me of my childhood. However, on the more practical side, the lack of time is a typical summer “problem”. Whether you are a parent vacationing with your kids. Or you are trying to navigate thru work and summery nights out with friends. There’s just not enough time. Free time for yourself can seem like a midsummer night’s dream! So for all of you that struggle with time management, but still want to have quality food my answer is: Zucchini fritters, a quick and easy recipe that everyone loves.

Zucchini are at their prime during summer, sweet and flavorful. It would be a shame not to put them to use. This recipe is inexpensive and pretty easy to put together. So let’s just jump right in and make our fritters.  Like I said, time is quite precious these days!

Making the zucchini fritters mixture

First things first, grate your zucchinis with the big hole side of the grater. Sprinkle some salt on the grated zucchini and (ideally) wrap it in cheesecloth. Strain to release most of the juice. You don’t have cheesecloth? (And why would you have cheesecloth packed in your luggage while on vacation?? haha) Use your bare and thoroughly washed hands. It’s that simple. Then put the zuchhini aside.

In a bowl add the grated onions, beaten eggs, garlic, fresh thyme and mint. Mix lightly. Add the zucchini, salt and pepper. Throw in the feta in big crumbles and mix as lightly as possible. Now add the flour tbsp by tbsp. You might need to use less or more, it really depends upon the moisture of your ingredients. The consistency you are looking for is barely thick, but able to be formed into a loose ball.

Put some olive oil in a frying pan and bring it to med – high heat. Not too high because the fritters will burn. Take some of the mixture and make a little ball with your hands. Directly place it in the pan. 1-2 mins per side are enough.  You don’t have to press it down to flatten it, it will “fall” naturally down as it fires. You might want to adjust the heat to medium at this point. Lift a little of the the fritter and check the color. It should be golden brown. Then turn them on the other side.

Tip: Zucchini fritters cook quickly so I don’t fry more than 4 or 5 at a time. Good luck!

Zucchini fritters – Greek kolokithokeftedes

Zucchini fritters – Greek kolokithokeftedes. You want enjoy your full-of-fun-but-no-time-summer-with-kids? Thea answer is zucchini fritters.

  • 700 g (1.5 lbs) grated zucchini
  • 2 onions, grated
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed or grated
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme, leaves picked
  • 1 bunch (2 cups leaves picked) fresh mint, chopped
  • 3/4 cup (120 g) flour
  • 200 g (7 oz) feta cheese
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  1. Grate your zucchinis with the big hole side of the grater. Sprinkle the grated zucchini with some salt and ideally wrap in cheesecloth. Strain to release most of the juice.  If you don’t have a cheesecloth, squeeze tight with your hands.  Put the zuchhini aside.

  2. In a bowl add the grated onions, beaten eggs, garlic, fresh thyme and mint. Mix lightly. Add the zucchini, salt and pepper. Throw in the feta in big crumbles and mix as lightly as possible.

  3.  Now add the flour tbsp by tbsp. You might need to use less or more. The consistency needs to be barely thick, but able to be formed into a loose ball.

  4. Put some olive oil in a frying pan and bring it to med – high heat. Not too high because the fritters will burn. Take some of the mixture and make a little ball with your hands. Directly place it in the pan and fry for 1-2 mins per side. You don’t have to press it down to flatten it, it will “fall” naturally down as it fires. 

  5. Adjust the heat to medium at this point if you have to. Lift a little of the the fritter and check the color. It should be golden brown. Then turn them on the other side.

    Tip: Zucchini fritters cook quickly so I don’t fry more than 4 or 5 at a time. Good luck!

 

Black Cherry Jam with Pepper – Μαρμελαδα με Μαυροκέρασα και πιπέρι

Hello from beautiful Athens, Greece! In Dubai the temperatures have been boiling hot the last few weeks, so we decided it was about time for me and little James to hit the road.

Among other lush vegetation the house is surrounded by fragrant pine trees. There is an open air market every Friday where you can find fresh vegetables and fruits. After I was tipped off by my mom that they sell the most tasty black cherries, I decided it’s cherry jam time!

 

These specific cherries are called black cherries – mavrokerasa and are very dark skinned.  They come from northern Greece, a part that is renowned for breeding the best cherries in the country. Their taste is sweet with lots of flesh that’s quite firm and juicy. Heaven!

 

 

Prepping the cherries

 

 

We bought 4 kgs of cherries which is about 9 pounds. After washing them thoroughly and removing the stems, we destoned them. This yielded 2.5 kgs (5.5 lbs) of fruit.

 

 

We put the fruit in a big heavy bottom pot and boiled it for 20 mins. Took the fruit off the fire and measured it. It was precisely 9 cups.

Destoning the cherries
Don’t mind my black cherry colored fingers!

 

 

Making the cherry jam

 

At this stage, please put a plate in the freezer. We will use it later.

Now I’m one of those people that do not prefer a particularly sweet jam. Therefore, I like to taste the fruit more, especially when they are in their peak season and so tasty. I think it’s a shame to over sweeten it. So anyway, we put the fruit back in the pot, brought it to a boil and added the juice and zest of 1.5 small lemons. Just be careful to grate the lemon with a small hole grater. As a result, you will grate off only the outer yellow part of the lemon and not the white skin underneath that tends to be bitter.

 

Next we added the sugar, regular white sugar, cup by cup. Tasting along the way, we decided to stop at 5 cups. Honestly, to my taste that was perfect. We lowered the heat to a simmer and stirred frequently so it doesn’t burn. Now I decided to experiment with pepper. Yes, you heard me, pepper, the regular black powder kind. The pepper gives the taste a big kick and enhances it quite a bit. If you want to take your jam a level or even two up, be bold and add pepper. If you are still not convinced, do me a favor and add the pepper powder bit by bit, checking the flavor as you go.

 

 

Simmer the jam for about 50 mins. You’ll know it’s ready when your jam has a thick-ish gel like consistency. Don’t expect it to be too thick though.

 

 

Remember that plate in the freezer? Take it out now and spread a teaspoon of jam on. It will cool down in seconds. Check the thickness of the cooled jam to see if you have what you are looking for. Yes? Congratulations get ready for breakfast! No? Simmer 5 mins more and check again.

 

 

 

We ended up with 8 cups of jam. To store, boil a few glass jars (and their lids) for 15 mins so they are nicely sterilized. Let them cool and spoon in the mavrokerasa jam.

 

 

 

Black Cherry jam with pepper – Μαρμελαδα Μαυροκέρασο με πιπέρι

Black Cherry jam. From sweet, firm and juicy cherries. Add pepper in it and make it a rockstar jam. By penelopeCooks right into your kitchen.

  • 2.5 (5.5 lbs) kg destoned and destemmed black cherries ((about 4 kg / 9 lbs of whole fruit))
  • 1.5 small lemon juice and zest
  • 5 cups regular white sugar
  • 1/5 tsp vanilla powder
  • 1/3 tsp black pepper powder
  1. Wash thoroughly the cherries. De-stem and de-stone them.

  2. Cook them in a heavy bottom pot and for 20 mins. 

  3. Put a plate in the freezer.

  4. put the fruit back in the pot, bring it to a boil and add the juice and zest of 1.5 small lemons. Add sugar and stir frequently.

  5. Add the vanilla and pepper powder and stir. 

  6. Simmer the jam for around 50 mins.  

  7. The jam is ready when you have a thickish gel consistency.

  8. Take the plate out of the freezer and spread a teaspoon of jam on to check the thickness of the cooled jam.

 

 

Greek Bekri Meze – “Drunken” Pork Stew with Whisky and Wine

I have been wanting to make this pork stew dish long time now. This dish is a frequent dweller of the taverna menus in the appetizer section. It’s a typical meze dish. Meze meaning, several plates of different food in small portions, so we can enjoy every different taste. I love this concept because it gives you latitude, it helps you understand a cuisine more. The concept of “meze” is long rooted in Greek eating culture. When we go out, we like to order lots of meze plates, never omitting the specials of the day. This way you don’t miss out on anything.  It’s a win-win!

At home there’s always several cooked goodies lying around in the kitchen. Like for example, there’s yesterday’s lamb stew and some baked potato leftovers. But it’s not enough. “Again” my mom would tell herself “I have to cook something everyday!” So, she would come up with a quick idea, like for instance meatballs. Quick, so she feels she’s not a kitchen hostage. Nevertheless good food.  So she goes about her business with a guilt-free conscious. Mom if you are reading this, I love your meatballs. 🙂

What did really happen during dinner time?

While the family would gather around the table, the guest star meze plates would make their appearance out of the dungeons of our fridge or storage room: pickled peppers, olives, spicy cheese spread on rusks, raw artichokes with lemon. Last but not least, there would be the odd dish on the table, the one you didn’t see coming, like chicken soup or grilled octopus. Now this one would come in a main dish size. That’s how you knew, this is what your aunt or grandma or neighbor next door has cooked for today.

Point is, in case you liked that dish more than the others, you kind of disappear silently and knock on the door of your aunt, to join them for dinner. See? You are keeping your options open, you are playing the market!

Now that I think of it, I believe that’s precisely the reason why I cannot make up my mind when I go out for dinner with my husband Rob. I just simply can not do 2 mains and 1 starter. I feel I’m loosing out on all the other stuff on the menu. And it just dawned on me, it’s because of my meze eating culture! But I have talked long enough, let’s get to the recipe. By the way, you can serve this as a main or as an appetizer.

To make the pork stew

Because pork can dry out easily when cooked like this, I brinned it for 10 mins. So take a bowl and add 2 cups of water and 2 tbsps of salt. Mix until salt is dissolved. Add the pork cubes while you are preparing the rest.

 

Chop up the peppers in big pieces. Take the tomatoes and dice them. Additionally, roughly chop the onion. Have all your herbs and spices in hand.

Drain the water from the pork and pat it dry with kitchen towels. In a cast iron skillet (or wide heavy bottom one instead) heat up some olive oil. How much? Until it barely covers the bottom, but not quite. Saute the onions for 2 mins, just until they soften. Now add in the pork and saute for 10 mins over medium fire, until it’s slightly golden.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reduce fire to low and add the wine and whiskey.

The classic bekri meze is made only with wine. However, the whiskey twist gives the flavor an extra punch. Love it! Scrape vigorously the fond, those browned bits that have formed on the bottom of the pan. It will give a ton of flavor to your food. I learned this from a very dear friend of mine last summer in Boston while making Ratatouille. 

Shortly after, add the peppers, garlich, tomatoes, herbs and spices.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cook over medium fire for another 20 mins. If you feel that the sauce is “drying out”, add a bit of water to make it saucy. Adjust the spices if you want. Don’t over cook it, the pork will loose its tenderness. Serve warm with baked potatoes or french fries.

Drunken Pork stew with whisky and wine – Bekri Meze

Beautiful and juicy pork meat in a sauce of wine and whisky with tomatoes and peppers! Unique taste that will make you adore it.

  • 700 g (1.5 lbs) pork cubes ((1.5 lbs))
  • 1 medium onion, roughly chopped
  • 2/3 cup red wine
  • 40 ml whisky
  • 3 bell peppers, chopped in big pieces
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 450 g (1 lbs) tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 small sprig rosemary
  • 2-3 small sprigs fresh oregano, or fresh Za'atar
  • 1/2 cup hot water (optional)
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp harissa
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  1. Preferably brine the port for 10-15 mins. In a bowl and add 2 cups of water and 2 tbsps of salt. Mix until salt is dissolved. Add the pork cubes.

  2. Chop up the peppers in big pieces. Dice the tomatoes. Roughly chop the onion.

  3. Drain the water from the pork and pat it dry with kitchen towels. In a cast iron skillet (or wide heavy bottom one instead) heat up some olive oil. Saute the onions for 2 mins, just until they soften. Add in the pork and saute for 10 mins over medium fire, until it’s slightly golden.

  4. Reduce fire to low and add the wine and whiskey.

  5. Shortly after, add the peppers, garlich, tomatoes, herbs and spices.

  6. Cook over medium fire for anout 20 mins. If you feel that the sauce is “drying out”, add a bit of water to make it saucy. Adjust the spices if need be. Don’t over cook it, otherwise it will become tough. Serve warm with baked potatoes or french fries.

 

 

 

Mint Lemonade with Rosemary

As I’m writing this post, I am utterly devouring my fresh made Mint Lemonade with Rosemary. It’s soury, fresh and makes my taste buds buzz with flavor. It is the perfect beverage for a hot hot day in Dubai. The combination of mint and lemon is a well known success. I decided to add some rosemary in, which gives it more of an earthy and deeper finish. Boy it’s good! It’s just so wonderful working with these fresh and simple ingredients.

Lemon… well lemon I’m not sure that I can say enough about it. I’m one of those weird people that eat lemon raw, as it is. Sliced up on a plate or freshly squeezed lemon juice in a glass straight up. I just love it. People often ask me how come I love eating raw lemons. I can’t put it in words, it’s makes me wanna dance 🙂

Where I grew up in Crete, spring is a wonderful thing to experience. In my neighborhood the streets were lined-up with lemon, orange and quince trees. And oh my, oh my, the citrusy aromas penetrating the atmosphere and into your nostrils – what a sensation. And there were all these pots full of mint plants. My grandma’s yard was full of it. To my eyes, mint is such a proud herb. It doesn’t need but water and abundant sunshine. And it just thrives! Such a beautiful green color with just enough depth to it. Shiny leaves that are strong enough not crease when you put your fist around them.

But let’s just go straight ahead and make it shall we?

To make the lemonade

First off, start by making the sugar syrup. Pour a 1/2 cup of water and 1/2 cup of sugar into a small pot and bring it to a simmer.

Tear 1-2 springs of rosemary and add them to the syrup. Simmer for a 1 or 2 minutes stirring at the same time and then take it off the stove. Put aside.

Squeeze a few lemons (I used four) to get 1/2 cup lemon juice, then pass it through a small sieve. Pour the juice into a jug and add 3.5 cups of water. Chop the mint thinly and add to the mix. Stir.

This makes around 4 servings. Take a glass, put lots of ice-cubes in and add one cup of the mint lemonade. Now add the syrup. Around 2-3 tsps depending how sweet you like it. Cut a medium sized rosemary sprig and insert it in the glass. Serve as is.

Tip: It’s best to serve the lemonade straight after making it to get the most out of the fresh herbs. However, if you want to make it ahead for the next day, I suggest you hold the mint for the last moment. You see chopped mint will discolor and loose its freshness. So you can make the lemonade the day before, but chop and add the mint just before serving. Sugar syrup will do perfectly fine in the fridge for a few days.

 

Mint Lemonade with Rosemary

Mint Lemonade with a touch of rosemary. It’s soury, fresh and makes my taste buds buzz with flavor. Perfect for a hot day!

  • 1/2 Cup lemon juice, freshly squeezed (about 4 lemons)
  • 3.5 Cups water
  • 4 tbsp fresh mint leaves, chopped
  • 2-3 Rosemary sprigs

For the Syrup

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup white sugar

To make the syrup

  1. Pour a 1/2 cup of water and 1/2 cup of sugar into a small pot and bring it to a simmer. Tear 1-2 springs of rosemary and add them to the syrup. Simmer for a 1 or 2 minutes stirring at the same time and then take it off the stove. Put aside.

To make the lemanode

  1. Squeeze the to get 1/2 cup lemon juice, then pass it through a small sieve. Pour the juice into a jug and add 3.5 cups of water. Chop the mint thinly and add to the mix. Stir.

  2. Chop the mint thinly and add to the mix. Stir.

  3. In a glass, put lots of ice-cubes in and add one cup of the mint lemonade. Add the syrup. Around 2-3 tsps depending how sweet you like it. Insert a rosemary sprig.

  4. Tip: It’s best to serve the lemonade straight after making it to get the most out of the fresh herbs. However, if you want to make it ahead for the next day, I suggest you hold the mint for the last moment. Chopped mint will discolor and loose its freshness. So you can make the lemonade the day before, but chop and add the mint just before serving. Sugar syrup will do perfectly fine in the fridge for a few days.