The Perfect Biscotti

Biscotti is an Italian cookie which is twice-baked. It makes a wonderful snack and is a great accompaniment to coffee, tea or wine. It is a light and textured cookie and makes a great alternative to the more sugary cookies available at the local supermarket. With biscotti you can really experiment with the ingredients: you can add chocolate chips, any time of nut, and even dried fruit like cranberries. Here Eva shows us her recipe for biscotti. We’ve tried many different biscotti recipes and found this one to be the best.

  • 2 cups of corn oil
  • 2 cups of sugar
  • 6 eggs
  • 5 1/2 cups of flour
  • 4 teaspoons of baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • The zest of 1 orange
  • 1 cup of sliced almonds or sesame seeds (to roll your biscotti logs)

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees. Lightly brush your large pan with oil.

Using an electric blender, mix together 2 cups of corn oil and 2 cups of sugar. Add the zest of 1 orange and continue mixing. Add 1 tablespoon of vanilla and then add the six eggs. It’s best to crack each egg into a small bowl and then add the eggs to the mixture one by one.

In another bowl add 4 teaspoons of baking powder to 1 cup of flour and mix together, and then add this to the egg mixture. Slowly add in the remaining 4 ½ cups of flour to the mixture. Continue working the dough with your hands.

On your countertop sprinkle some of your almond/sesame seeds in front of you. Take a large handful of the dough mixture and roll it into a log on your countertop, rolling it onto the almonds/sesame seeds. Be sure to oil your hands before handling the dough; the oil makes it much easier to work with the dough and keeps the dough from sticking to your hands. Continue working the dough into logs and place these on your greased pans. Sprinkle any remaining almonds on top of your biscotti logs.

Bake in the oven at 325 degrees for 30 minutes. Remove the biscotti logs from the pan and place them on a cutting board. Slice the logs into diagonal pieces and place these pieces sideways on your pan and put it back in the oven at 250 degrees for another 30 minutes to dry them out.

These biscotti are wonderful served with Greek coffee!

How to make Greek Coffee

Greek coffee is both delicious and mysterious! It is a wonderful drink to serve your house guests, but also provides a window into your past, present and future…well, apparently, but we’re not quite sure. Greek coffee is quite strong and is served with the foam at the top and the grounds at the bottom of the cup. It is made using a small pot, called a briki in Greek, and is sweetened according to taste: bitter, medium, sweet, or very sweet. The coffee is served in demitasse or espresso cups and is always served with a cold glass of water. We bought our coffee in Greece while we were there last summer, but it is also widely available in Greek specialty stores as well as the ethnic section of most grocery stores across North America.

To make Greek coffee you will need:

  • Cold Water (1 demitasse cup per person)
  • Sugar (For medium sweetness use 1 teaspoon per cup, but you can adjust this according to your own preference)
  • Greek coffee (1 teaspoon per cup)
  • A small pot (briki)

Use the demitasse cup to measure out 1 cup of water per person and pour the water in your pot. Once the water is hot but before it begins to boil, add the sugar and then the coffee. For medium sweetness use 1 teaspoon of sugar for each cup you are making. If you would like it sweeter, add 2 teaspoons of sugar for each cup, but if you prefer your coffee bitter then don’t add any sugar at all. For the coffee you will use 1 teaspoon of coffee for each cup you are making. Stir to dissolve the coffee and sugar, but do not stir again. Turn your stove to medium-low heat and wait for the coffee to begin to bubble. As the water begins to boil, the foam will rise to the top. As Eva explains in the video this foam is called kaïmaki in Greek. Once the coffee has begun to foam, it’s ready. Place 1 teaspoon of foam in each cup (this way everyone’s coffee gets a bit of the delicious foam) and then pour the rest of the coffee in the cups. The coffee is now ready to serve. Be sure to give of your guests a tall glass of cold water with the coffee!

If you’ve had the chance to visit Greece you might have see people turning their finished cups of coffee over onto the saucer and then having their fortune read to them, a practice known as tasseography. Let us know your experiences with this!

Eva’s Delicious Dolmathes (Stuffed Grapevine Leaves)

This video along with the last two, were created without the use of a tripod (all 3 were recorded on the same day). We learned our lesson and got a tripod. Sorry for any shaky hands :)

Dolmathes, also known as stuffed grapevine leaves, are a Greek specialty. There are many different variations of this dish, depending on the region of Greece. Some prepare it with an avgolemono (egg and lemon) sauce, others prefer a tomato sauce. Some Greeks cook the dolmathes in a pan in the oven, while others prefer to cook the dolmathes on the stovetop. In this recipe Eva shows us her unique way of preparing this classic Greek dish.

For the Dolmathes:

  • ½ pound of ground beef
  • 1 medium onion (chopped)
  • ¼ cup of chopped parsley
  • ¼ cup of chopped mint
  • 1/3 cup of chopped dill or anise
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • ½ cup of washed and strained uncooked rice
  • 1 tsp of sea salt
  • 1 tsp of black pepper
  • 20-30 grapevine leaves

For the lemon sauce:

  • 1 tablespoon of flour
  • Juice of half a lemon

To begin you need to blanch your grapevine leaves. Some grocery stores sell jars of preserved grapevine leaves, but if you are using fresh leaves you need to blanch them by placing them in a pot of boiling water for about 2-3 minutes then rise with cold water and pat dry.

In a large bowl mix together the ground beef, onion, parsley, mint, anise, egg, olive oil, lemon juice, rice, and salt and pepper.

Once you have mixed these ingredients well you may begin rolling your dolmathes. Place your grapevine leaves face down (smooth side down) on your countertop. Place a ½ teaspoon of mixture at the top of the leaf and roll the leaf by folding in the sides and rolling downwards. Roll the leaves tightly. Repeat until all the mixture has been used up. After you have finished rolling all of the dolmathes, pour about 1 teaspoon of the olive oil in a medium size pot and place your dolmathes (with the seam side down) in the pot. Put the pot on medium heat and let it cook for 2-3 minutes.

In another small pot, bring 2-3 cups of water to a boil. After the water has come to a boil pour it over your dolmathes. Place a small heat-proof plate over your dolmathes and close the lid. Turn the heat down to a light-to-medium heat and let it cook for about 45 minutes. Once it has cooked, remove the dolmathes from the pot and place on a serving plate. Be sure to keep any remaining juice to make the sauce.

To prepare the lemon sauce, mix 1 tablespoon of flour with half a cup of water. Add the juice of half a lemon to the leftover dolmathes juice. Add the flour mixture to this and whisk the mixture well. Let it come to a boil for 1-2 minutes until it thickens. Strain the mixture as you pour it over the dolmathes. Garnish with lemon wedges and serve!

Eva’s Tasty Tyropita (Cheese puffs)

This video, along with the next one (which was done on the same day) were created without the use of a tripod. We learned our lesson and got a tripod. Sorry for any shaky hands :)

Tyropita are delicious Greek pastries made with feta or ricotta cheese (or a combination of both) wrapped in layers of buttered phyllo. Tyropita are great as a snack or as a side dish for lunch or dinner, although in Greece they are usually eaten as a breakfast food. What I love about tyropita is that you can make a large batch and then freeze them. Take some out of the freezer about 40 minutes before dinner, pop them in the oven, and you’ll have a wonderful side dish for the family meal.

Here is Eva’s recipe for tyropitakia. She uses both feta and ricotta cheese, but if you like it a little more salty use only feta cheese. Enjoy!

Ingredients:

  • Half a pound of feta cheese (about 2 cups)
  • 500 grams of ricotta cheese
  • Half a pound of butter (or you can use margarine)
  • 3 eggs
  • A quarter tsp of black pepper
  • Parsley (optional)

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees.

In a large bowl, mix the feta, ricotta, eggs, and black pepper with your hands.

Remove the phyllo from the package, carefully unwrap it, and lay it flat on your counter. Place a slightly damp cloth over the phyllo to prevent it from drying out.

Place your butter in a small bowl and it microwave until softened. Get out a brush and butter a large pan.

Cut the phyllo into 3 or 4 long strips. Take out one pile of strips and cover the rest of the phyllo with your cloth.

Take one strip of phyllo and lightly butter it. Add another layer of phyllo and butter that too. Now drop a spoonful of the cheese mixture at the bottom of the long strip. Fold the phyllo in triangles.

Once you have finished folding each piece, butter it and place it on the pan.

Repeat until you have finished with the cheese mixture and the phyllo.

Once you are finished place the pan in the oven for about an hour (at 325 degrees)

And viola! You have delicious tyropitakia for you and your family.

Eva’s Scrumptious Baklava

This video, along with the next two (which were done on the same day) were created without the use of a tripod. We learned our lesson and got a tripod. Sorry for any shaky hands :)

Baklava is a rich, decedent desert made with made with phyllo, almonds/walnuts, honey, and lots of love. This recipe has been in Eva’s family for years. We hope you enjoy!

Ingredients:

For the phyllo

  • 1 box of phyllo (you can find this in the refrigerator section of your local grocery store)
  • Half a pound of unsalted butter (you can substitute the butter for margarine or corn oil if you like)
  • 4 cups of crushed almonds/walnuts
  • 1/3 cup of sugar
  • 1/3 cup of breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup of cognac
  • 1 tablespoon of cinnamon
  • The peel of one orange

For the syrup

  • 1 8-ounce glass of sugar
  • 2 cup of water
  • 1 cup of honey
  • Half an orange or lemon
  • 2 sticks of cinnamon
  • A pinch of cloves
  • 1 tablespoon of lemon juice

More details outlined in the video:

Mix the nuts, cinnamon, and cognac together in a blender. Once blended, put the mixture aside.

Melt your butter in the microwave. Get out a large pan (I like to use a 16 x 14 inches pan) and a brush. Brush the bottom and sides of your pan with the melted butter.

Remove the phyllo from the package, lay it flat on your countertop and cover the phyllo with a slightly damp cloth to keep it from drying out as you work.

Place your first layer of phyllo on your pan and butter it. Repeat this 5 times.

Once you have about 5 layers of phyllo, pour about a cup of your nut mixture over the phyllo.

Place another layer of phyllo over the nuts and butter the sheet. Repeat this once more. If you like, you could crumple the phyllo rather than place it flat on the mixture, doing so will give your baklava a bit more body.

Add another cup of your mixture over the phyllo. Be sure to spread the nut mixture evenly.

Add another two sheets of phyllo (be sure to butter each layer). Now add the rest of your mixture.
Add another sheet of phyllo over the mixture and butter. Repeat until you have used up all your phyllo and, again, be sure to butter each layer.

Using your brush tuck in the edges of the phyllo into the pan. Butter the top layer of phyllo heavily.

Before you put the baklava in the oven you need to cut it, but be gentle! The knife should only pierce the top layers of phyllo, don’t cut all the way to the bottom. Cut the baklava into 3 strips and then cut horizontally across those strips. You should have squares. Now cut diagonal lines across the square to make diamond shaped pieces. Before you place the pan in the over sprinkle a little water over the phyllo.

Bake the phyllo in the oven at 325 degrees for an hour.

Once it is baked, remove it from the oven and let it cool.

Now you need to make the syrup which will be poured over the baklava. To make the syrup you need to mix the sugar, water, and honey together in a medium size saucepan. Add half a lemon (or orange), about 5-6 cloves, and 2 cinnamon sticks and bring it to a boil. Let it boil for about 15-20 minutes. To see if the syrup is ready you can test it by placing a small drop of the syrup on your stove-top and feel it with your finger. If it has a nice body to it, it’s ready. Add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice to help it stay nice and smooth after it cools down.

Once the syrup has cooled down a little, pour it over the phyllo. Remember, either the phyllo or the syrup has to be cool. If both are still hot, the baklava will be destroyed.

Let it sit for a few hours, or preferably overnight, and serve!!