Tag Archives: Greek

Baklava Two Ways

2 Jan

I am surprised that I haven’t ever posted this recipe!  Most likely because I haven’t made it in a while.  I really enjoy baklava, but like Spanakopita and Tiropita, it’s somewhat time-consuming to make having to butter all the phyllo dough.  In the end, though, all the work is so worth it!  For New Year’s Day, my sister and I decided we wanted a Greek feast for dinner, and we spent 3 hours prepping tiropita, pastitsio, and dolmathes.  We had a roll of phyllo dough left, so we decided to make a dessert to take to my brother and sister-in-law’s house for dinner tonight.  I thought of baklava, but the nuts are pretty expensive to get already chopped.  So, then I thought about the Biscoff Cookie Truffles my sister had made last week, which were absolutely amazing, and thought that the Biscoff cookies and Biscoff spread would make a great filling instead of the traditional nut filling.  Turns out that I’m not the only to have the idea of Biscoff Baklava, but we made a few changes because I was worried that version would be way to sweet and over seasoned.  The Biscoff cookies and spread are already so flavorful on their own, they don’t need anything else, as evidenced by the truffles we’d just made.  It turned out amazing, and I will share how we made it and include the traditional baklava filling and the Biscoff filling.

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Baklava

What you need:

1 roll 9″ x 14″ phyllo dough (usually in your grocery’s freezer section)
2 sticks unsalted butter, melted

Traditional baklava filling:
4 cups (1 lb) coarsely ground walnuts
2 cups (1/2 lb) coarsely ground almonds
4 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
3 Tbsp melted butter

Alternate Biscoff baklava filling:
1 8.8 oz package Biscoff cookies
1/2 of a 14 oz jar of Biscoff spread
4 oz cream cheese

Syrup:
1/4 cup honey
1 Tbsp lemon juice
2 c. water
2 c. sugar
1 cinnamon stick

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Traditional baklava filling:
Combine the ingredients for the filling.  Brush bottom and sides of 13″ X 9″ pan with melted butter. Lay phyllo dough in bottom of pan, generously brushing with butter.  Repeat this process, brushing each sheet of dough with butter, using half the dough in your roll. Pour filling over phyllo dough and spread evenly. Continue again with layers of phyllo dough, brushing each sheet of dough with butter, until you have used the remaining dough.

Alternate Biscoff filling:
Place Biscoff cookies in a large zipper bag and crush into fine pieces using a rolling pin.  In a small saucepan, heat Biscoff spread and cream cheese over low heat.  Stir continuously until mixed together and easier to spread.  Brush bottom and sides of 13″ X 9″ pan with melted butter. Lay phyllo dough in bottom of pan, generously brushing with butter.  Repeat this process, brushing each sheet of dough with butter, using half the dough in your roll. Carefully spread the Biscoff spread and cream cheese mixture over the phyllo dough.  Next, evenly pour the crushed Biscoff cookies over the spread.  Continue again with layers of phyllo dough, brushing each sheet of dough with butter, until you have used the remaining dough.

Score through top layers of the pastry with a sharp knife. Pour remaining butter over. Bake for 40 minutes on the bottom oven rack or until pastry is golden brown. Remove to a cooling rack and cool for 5 minutes.

Biscoff Baklava

I forgot to get a picture before we started serving it, but this gives you an idea of one way to make the cuts.

Combine all syrup ingredients in saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally to dissolve sugar. Reduce heat and simmer 20-25 minutes or until it reaches 225 F on a candy thermometer. Remove cinnamon stick and allow to cool.

Pour cooled syrup over hot pastry. Allow to stand for at least 3 hours or overnight. (Note: I like to put mine in the fridge overnight, then bring to room temperature before served.)

Gyros Meatloaf with Tzatziki

15 Feb

Unfortunately, the Greek restaurant we had here in town closed down, and even though there are a few places that serve gyros still, I decided to keep working on my own version at home.  I have made Gyros Burgers before, but wanted to try it as more of a meatloaf than burgers so it could be sliced and put in pita pockets.  Now, the downside to meatloaf is that it takes a while to cook without getting too dry.  So, now, when I have time I can do meatloaf, if I’m pressed for time, I can do burgers.  I also made tzatziki for the first time tonight to go with this.  It was perfect!  My husband is usually not a fan when we get gyros when eating out.  He says it’s too messy, but this was thicker, more dip-like, so it wasn’t dripping all over when eating it.  Tonight, I served it with Sweet Potato Chips, which were a nice compliment to the gyros.

Gyros Meatloaf with Tzatziki and Sweet Potato Chips

Gyros Meatloaf with Tzatziki

What you need:

Gyros Meatloaf:
1 pound ground beef and 1 pound ground lamb or 2 pounds ground beef
1 small onion
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried savory
1 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon dried oregano or 2 teaspoons fresh oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
Dash of ground cumin

Tzatziki (original recipe with more step by step pictures at Daily Cynema:
24 oz container plain Greek yogurt
1 seedless cucumber, peeled
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon dried dill weed
1 teaspoon salt
Ground black pepper to taste

How to make it:

Put the onion in a food processor for a few seconds.  Remove into paper towels and squeeze out excess liquid.  Place onions in a mixing bowl, and stir in remaining meatloaf ingredients.  Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 325 F

Put the meat mixture back into the food processor and process for about a minute or until mixture becomes like a fine paste.  Press meat mixture into a 9 x 5 loaf pan, making sure there are no air pockets.  Place loaf pan in a larger roasting pan, and pour boiling water into the roasting pan until there is enough to reach the middle of the side of the loaf pan, creating a water bath for baking.

Water Bath for Gyros Meatloaf

Carefully place in oven and bake in the preheated oven for 60-70 minutes, or until meat reaches an internal temperature of 170 F.  Pour out any excess fat, and slice thinly to serve.

Finished Gyros Meatloaf

While meatloaf is baking, grate the peeled cucumber and squeeze out the excess liquid.  Put in a mixing bowl and stir in remaining tzatziki  ingredients.  Put in a container and keep refrigerated until ready to use (I just returned it to the container the Greek yogurt came in).  Serve with the gyros meatloaf in pita bread with lettuce, tomato, and red onion, if desired.

Tzatziki

Greek Easter Traditions and A Natural Way to Color Easter Eggs

7 Apr

My good friend and former next door neighbor, Inga, is the one who introduced me to this method of coloring eggs for Easter.  She grew up in Latvia and her family would use onion skins to get the coloring for the eggs, and use gauze or cheesecloth to wrap leaves, flowers, or other items to make patterns on the eggs.  I never got a chance to do it with her, but thought it would be neat to try sometime.

As it turns out, using onion skins for coloring is one of the ways to get eggs red colored for Greek Easter.  When I was growing up, we attended a Catholic church and with my mom’s family being Greek Orthodox, we would celebrate both Western Easter and Greek Orthodox Easter.  Some years, the 2 Easters would fall on the same date, other years they are on different dates.  Why different dates?  Both use the same rules, it must be after the Vernal (Spring) Equinox, after Jewish Passover, with the first full moon on a Sunday after the 21st of March.  However, the Orthodox church uses the Julian calendar to find the date, and Western churches use the Gregorian calendar to find the date.  This year, they are a week apart, Western Easter is Sunday, April 7, and Orthodox Easter is Sunday, April 15.  I didn’t know all the reasons back then, I just thought it was cool to get to have 2 Easter celebrations each year.  And even now, I just have bits and pieces of traditions.  So, here is what I remember us doing.  For Greek Easter each year, we would go to my grandparents house for dinner.  I don’t know that I remember eating lamb, but I’m sure we did a few times.  I do remember sitting down to dinner and my grandparents, my mom, and my aunts and uncle, would all sing a Greek Easter hymn, “Xristos Anesti”, which means Christ is Risen.  Here is how it is sung: Xristos Anesti Hymn.

Then, we would pass around the colored, hard-boiled eggs, and play the egg game.  Your goal is to keep your egg from getting cracked, while cracking everyone else’s egg.  You want to make sure you get a good grip on it, then you take turns lightly tapping each others eggs.  Once your egg is cracked on both ends, you are out.  If you manage to keep your egg intact, then you are the winner!

So, back to the eggs.  Yes, there are artificial colors and dyes to make all kinds of pretty colored eggs, but there are natural ways to color them too.  There are a variety of foods and spices that can be used to get various colors, here are a few:

Yellow or red onion skins: Reddish brown color
Red cabbage: Blueish color
Coffee: Brown color
Beets: Pink color
Turmeric: Yellow egg

I can only vouch for the onion skins.  I used mostly yellow onion skins and a few red onion skins to get the eggs the color in the picture at the top.  I was pretty impressed with the whole process.  Four of the eggs I put straight into the color, then four of the eggs I put various items around, one had mint leaves, one had rosemary leaves, one had oregano leaves, and one had rice, then I wrapped them in gauze and tied the ends to keep it in place.   Yes, I know I only used 8 eggs, but that was all I had.  Easter crept up on me this year.

To make the color, here is what you need:

Outer skins from 10-15 yellow onions
4 1/2 cups of water
2 tablespoons of white vinegar

You mix all this in a large pot, making sure it is a pan that won’t stain from the color.  Bring it to a boil, then cover and turn the heat to low to simmer for 20 minutes.  The water will become a red-orange color.  Next, carefully add the eggs to the pot, nestling them underneath the onion skins and making sure they are fully covered by the colored water.  I used a slotted spoon to lower them in the pot.

Cover the pot again, keep the heat on low, and simmer with the eggs in for 20-30 minutes.  Remove from heat and check the color.  If they are not yet the desired color, keep covered as they cool and then move to the refrigerator until they reach your desired color.  I found that mine needed about 20 minutes more after being removed from heat to get the color I wanted, I didn’t have to put them in the refrigerator.  Use a slotted spoon to carefully remove the eggs from the pot and put on wire racks to cool and dry.  Remove the gauze and pattern items.

Once they are cool, rub butter or vegetable oil over the eggs to give them a shiny finish.  Then, you are set to play the egg game and enjoy the hard-boiled eggs!

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