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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Vasilopita the Greek New Year's cake

Vasilopita is considered the Greek New Year's cake. It is associated with the OrthodoxSaint Basil's day on January 1 in Greece. On New Year's Day families cut the Vasilopita to bless the house and bring good luck for the new year.
It is traditional to bake a coin into the Vasilopita (St. Basil's cake). The one who receives the coin is considered to be especially blessed for the year. A piece of cake is sliced for each member of the family and any visitors present at the time. Slices are also cut for various other people or groups, depending on local and family tradition. They may include St. Basil and other saints, the Virgin Mary, the Church and the poor.
Vasilopita is made in honor of a beautiful act by St. Basil for his tax burden flock.

One year, during a time of terrible famine, the emperor levied a sinfully excessive tax upon the people of Caesarea. The tax was such a heavy burden upon the already poverty stricken people that to avoid debtors' prison each family had to give up its few remaining coins and pieces of jewelry, including precious family heirlooms. Learning of this injustice upon his flock, St. Basil the Great, the archbishop of Caesarea, took up his bishop's staff and the book of the holy Gospels and came to his people's defense by fearlessly calling the emperor to repentance. By God's grace, the emperor did repent! He canceled the tax and instructed his tax collectors to turn over to St. Basil all of the chests containing the coins and jewelry which had been paid as taxes by the people of Caesarea. But now St. Basil was faced with the daunting and impossible task of returning these thousands of coins and pieces of jewelry to their rightful owners. After praying for a long time before the icons Christ and His All-Holy Mother, St. Basil had all the treasures baked into one huge pita (bread). He then called all the townspeople to prayer at the cathedral, and, after Divine Liturgy, he blessed and cut the pita, giving a piece to each person.

Miraculously, each owner received in his piece of Vasilopita his own valuables. They all joyfully returned home, giving thanks to God who had delivered them from miserable poverty and to their good and holy bishop St. Basil the Great! In remembrance of that miracle from God as a result of St. Basil's love and defense of his people, Orthodox Christians have observed the tradition of the Vasilopita each year on January 1st.

Vasilopita from Asia Minor
This is a lovely recipe worth trying as it carries along all the flavours and tradition of Asia Minor!

2 cups of sugar
8 oz (226g)of butter
7 eggs
3 cup of plain flour, sieved
4 leveled teaspoons of baking powder
1 cp of almonds, ground to Powder
1 tablespoon vanilla
1/4 cup of brandy (or congac)
2 oranges (grated zest)
1 cup of milk

Sieve the flour and baking powder together in a bowl. Beat the butter and sugar together until creamy. Add the eggs, one at a time, so that each egg is fully incorporated before you add the next. Add the vanilla, grated zest and brandy. Then add the almonds. Finally add the flour and the milk, a little at a time. Grease with butter and line with greaseproof paper a 30cm (12 inch) baking tin. Empty the mixture in. Add the traditional coin. Bake at 170ºC (340 F), in a well preheated oven, for approximately 1h and 10 minutes. Garnish with sieved icing sugar.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Hamersley’s Bistro a beloved restaurant of Boston’s South End

Hamersley’s Bistro is a beloved restaurant that put the South End on Boston’s culinary map. Opening in 1987, Hamersley’s still feels fresh and remains a favorite among locals.
Although the French bistro influence has always been a part of Hamersley Bistro’s identity, it remains a conspicuous presence on Chef Gordon Hamersley’s menu, with its American zip code slowly playing an integrate role. With the use of locally sourced ingredients, Hamersley delivers signature dishes such as the rustic Mushroom and Garlic Sandwich on Toasted Country Bread, the simple Roasted Chicken with Garlic, Lemon and Parsley, and the heavenly Souffléed Lemon Custard, that are all deservingly famous.  Airy Buttermilk Waffle with Raspberry, Blackberry and Blueberry Compote with Toasted Oat Crumble and Vermont Maple Syrup; Savory Spring Onion Waffle with Bacon, Egg and Parmesan Cheese; Wolfe’s Neck Farm “Bistro” Burger With Goat Cheese, Roasted Peppers, Grilled Onions, Smoky Aioli and Spiced Steak Fries; it’s no wonder that Chef Gordon Hamersley has earned a national reputation.
If you’re looking for affordable chic, opt for the Ripe Cheeses with Walnuts and Toasted Breads and a glass of wine, the latter coming from Fiona Hamersley’s expertly chosen wines, and predominantly French. For brunch, opt for the Pri Fixe menu.
Don’t forget to indulge in the excellent desserts. The famed Souffléed Lemon Custard, Layered Chocolate Mousse Cake with Blackberry Coulis with Pink Peppercorn Cream and Warm Molten Chocolate Cake with Vanilla Ice Cream, Burnt Caramel and Maine Sea Salt are all heavenly and would be a worthy ending to a great dining experience.
Hamersley’s Bistro
553 Tremont Street
Boston, MA 02116
(617) 423-2700

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Romanos, a Luxury Collection Resort

Did the ancient Greek royalty play golf? Have spa days? I would assume that they at least ate splendidly. No matter. At The Romanos, a Luxury Collection Resort you will be treated to an experience that would make the ancient Greek royalty jealous.

It’s not by chance that the ancient Greek royalty had the white-sand beaches of Messinia as their stomping ground. It’s not by chance yet again that the Peloponnese region, is about to have their second grandiosity. The perfect location to enjoy unparalleled relaxation and experience the authenticity of the surrounding environment. 

Set in a stunning landscape garden with an array of indigenous trees and plants, this whitewashed, 321-acre property, virtually invisible from the Ionian Sea alongside it, has a golf course that’s irrigated with rainwater, and 80 percent of the property will operate on solar power by 2012. Don’t let this eco - conscious approach fool you, Romanos is also about indulging: indulging the mind, the senses, the body and the taste buds. Each of the 32 light-filled suites has a private pool, and the breakfast spread includes five types of local honey. I bet the ancient Greek royalty would be jealous of that spread.

If you are seeking a room with views of the ocean from the infinity pool and from the bathrooms’ soaking tub, or if you wish to gaze at the sea (or the stars) in any weather, ask to book rooms 1309, 1310, and 1311.

Dining:  The Romanos Resort offers an array of culinary delights, from Italian, Pan Asian, Middle eastern cuisine, including a destination restaurant featuring ethnic and indigenous cuisine based on local organic ingredients, a Greek restaurant complete with a well-stocked wine cellar, extensive lounge areas and a lobby bar. The resort will also has outdoor areas for grilling offering a serene, romantic and casual mood for outdoor dining.

A four-star cuisine is great but if your looking to do as the Greeks, then grab a Souvlaki or Gyro at the hotel’s Souvlakerie stand, then munch on it while watching live local performances or soccer matches at the open-air cinema in the Agora—the hotel’s central square. 

If you seek and enjoy adventure the resort offers plenty excitement. Mountain biking, Nordic walking, hiking and racket sports, as well as many water-related sports and recreational activities. Indoor activities available include Ten Pin bowling, squash and basketball as well as extensive areas for meditation and workout classes. For a truly authentic Greek experience, guests are encouraged to discover the beauty and culture of Messinia and partake in traditional activities ranging from fishing to the art of olive-oil and wine-making. 

Looking for rest and relaxation, look no further. Navarino Dune’s 4,000 square metre “Anazoe” Spa, features a brand new concept in wellness which combines ancient Greek medicine and philosophy with modern scientific treatments and utilizes the area’s unique natural products and revitalizing ingredients.
The dominating element at Anazoe Spa is the Olive tree. The therapeutic olive oil treatments (oleotherapy) are based on ancient local practices originating from the Messinian area. Its is no surprise that some of theses practices are still used today by the locals.
Treatments include kinisiotherapy, floating pools, an extensive range of light therapies, ice-grotto rooms, herbal saunas and unique Oleotherapy® treatments originating at Nestor’s Palace, dating back to Hippocratic times. Guests of the resort will have access to a Health and Fitness Centre with a heated indoor pool, indoor Jacuzzi, steam room and fitness facilities, as well as the resort’s spectacular outdoor pool complex.

If all this luxury is a tad bit to overwhelming then skip over to the Westin resort Costa Navarino right next door. However, beware the ancient Greeks will be frowning upon you from the heavens above.

Navarino Dunes
Costa Navarino
Messinia, Greece

TEL: (800) 325-3589

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Barbecue: A piece of heaven or a summer disaster?

A roaring fire, the company of good friends, refreshing cocktails, savory foods, all this is the little piece of heaven that we yearn for before the sun sets and can be easily labeled with one word, barbecue!  One would not think twice to crash a barbeque if at all possible! 

But, in all seriousness,  a barbeque is considered one momentous highlight of the all the summer's social events. On the flipside, a summer barbecue can easily turn into a summer disaster, if proper precautions aren't taken to ensure food safety. The result can be a quick run to the nearest hospital, when the driver will find himself  packing two beers, a few burgers, and/or an expensive piece of filet mignon in the back seat of the car for the ride and wait in the ER for his suffering patient. 

It is estimated that there are between 48 million illnesses and 3,000 deaths each year in the United States alone, many of which could have been avoided if people took proper care while preparing and consuming food outdoors in the hot weather. The good news is that it doesn't take a lot of effort to guard against food-borne illnesses. You can still drink your brew and hang with your friends while making sure that the detailing of your car will not be part of your barbecue cost. Here are some simple tips you can use this summer to make sure your barbecue snacks/picnics are both safe and delicious.

The most important tip would be: wash your hands, and thoroughly I should add. If you happen to be out camping or barbecuing at a picnic, and there is no water supply make sure to bring your own source of clean water. If lugging around extra water for this reason is a hassle for you, no worries, bring baby wipes or sterile wipes.

Carefully stock your cooler, or refrigerator, because the way you stock your cooler/refrigerator is very important. You definitely want your raw meats to be wrapped well and placed at the very bottom of the cooler or refrigerator, and AWAY from other food. This ensures that if any of the meat starts to drip, the drippings won't land on other edible items, thus avoiding cross contamination of any sort.

Place the cooler in the coldest, shadiest part of the passenger area of your car. DO NOT keep it in the trunk. You might not know this but the trunk is generally the hottest part of a vehicle. When you arrive at the picnic site, place the cooler under a shady tree or somewhere else out of direct sunlight.

Cook meat thoroughly. Most of us don’t like a dry burger or steak, and would rather have a nice mooing piece of meat. Then again, there is mooing and there is mooooooing. If you are not to sure what mooooooing is, use a digital instant-read thermometer to test your meat. Here are the temperatures you are looking for to ensure that no one runs the 50 yard dash to the nearest secluded area: 160°F for beef; 185°F for poultry; 145°F for fish.

Avoid cross-contamination. Although using the same plate that the raw meat was in is tempting, especially if that means less plates for you to wash, NEVER place cooked meat on a surface that previously held raw meat. Use two sets of tongs - one to turn raw meat on the grill, the other to transport it to your plate once it's been cooked.

Cover your food as much as possible. Insects bring all sorts of contamination to your food. Bacteria from garbage, road kill bacteria, yes-even manure and dog droppings land on your food from insects.

On a warm summer's day, perishable food left unrefrigerated or chilled in your cooler will be unsafe to eat after only one hour. So, if you are craving to have left overs at work tomorrow, place any leftovers in an ice-filled cooler.

Follow these few tips and make your barbecue events the epitome of your friend’s summer. Besides, what’s better then a fun relaxing barbecue, sipping on brews, and showing off your barbecue and food safety skills, maybe chocolate? But, we will leave that for the winter.

Enjoy the summer!

photo credits: onthegorge, dwdw, malprayis2000, thank you for such great photos

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Caprese salad

Caprese Salad (Insalata Caprese in Italian) is a classic summer salad that is very simple to put together. It is both gorgeous to look at and eat. However, would you expect anything less from a dish that is named after a picturesque island of the southern coast of Italy?

With summer finally landing its two feet into the year, salads are a natural choice for a nice, leisurely lunch, or even as a suppertime accompaniment. Caprese salad can immediately become a dinnertime entrée simply by increasing its portion size, while serving some rustic sourdough bread and a great chilled white glass of wine.

The simple ingredient combination is what makes this salad stand out from the rest: fresh mozzarella cheese, ripe tomatoes, fresh basil, extra virgin olive oil, sea salt, and freshly ground pepper. And even though additions to the ingredients list would alter it's traditional standing as an Italian Insalata Caprese, some foodies may even indulge in a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. Another worthwhile addition would be to add some spring mix or arugula, giving the salad a peppery note that compliments its flavors.

The key to success with this salad, as with any dish, is to use the very best ingredients you possibly can. Organic, local, ripe tomatoes straight from the farmer’s market – need I say more? Use a good quality mozzarella, buffalo preferably or bocconcini, a full-bodied, extra virgin olive oil with a nice fruity flavor, and fresh picked Sweet Italian basil is the natural choice; but, if that is not an option, then a drizzle of some good quality pesto is a great substitute. Lastly, a flaky kosher salt, such as Fleur de Sel would be a worthwhile finish for this dish.

It’s truly a special concoction, with its bold, fresh flavors. So, save the Caprese for the summertime, while farmer markets are buzzing. Besides, it just won’t be the same with January’s tomatoes!

To assemble your salad the traditional way: Slice the cheese and tomatoes in quarter-inch thick slices. You can either chiffonade the basil (by stacking leaves together, rolling them tightly and slicing through lengthwise with a sharp knife, to create thin strips) or use whole leaves. Put several slices of tomato on the plate; top each with a slice of cheese. Drizzle with olive oil (and balsamic vinegar if using). Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and garnish with basil.

Note: You can create individual plates or a big platter to serve at the table by using cherry tomatoes and bocconicini. Pour yourself a nice glass of Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc as this would be a delicious pairing with this salad. On the other hand, if you are red wine enthusiast, you can’t go wrong with a nice Chianti. Cut up some fresh sourdough bread to mop up the tasty olive oil and tomato juices accumulated at the bottom of your plate. Trust me when I tell you that this is the best part.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Greek Answer to Bolognese

“Macaronia me kima” (pronounced ma ka RO nia me kee MAH) is a classic Greek dish of pasta and meat sauce. Similar to an Italian bolognese, but different in the sense of flavors. There are no carrots or celery being used, and traditional Greek flavors of cinnamon, allspice and cloves are added.
Meat sauce in Greece is referred to as kima (kee-MAH), which is also the word for ground beef. It’s thicker and more like chili in its consistency than a typical Italian bolognese sauce. Tacos, meaty mac and cheese, even chilli, or any dish that calls for classic braised ground meat can be recreate with this sauce. It is a very versatile sauce and, it’s very easy to make. You only need 10 minutes to prep and then the sauce cooks itself. Just remember to start the pasta about 10 minutes before the kima is done. Once strained, throw the past right in the sauce. Voila! There you have it, makaronia me kima.
It seems that every Greek cook puts his or her own personal spin on this traditional favorite. That is the beauty of this recipe; it can be adapted to your own personal taste and it will quickly become a favorite in your family. Here is my family’s favorite version on this traditional dish.
A nice easy to make comfort food, that will become your family’s favorite
  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil (optional)
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1/4 cup red wine
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 2-3 berries of allspices (or a nice pinch of ground)
  • Pinch of ground cloves (optional)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 15 oz. can tomato sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 tbsp. butter
  • 1 lb. pasta
  • Grated Mizithra or Kefalotyri cheese
  1. In a 4-quart saucepan, add oil and brown the ground beef over medium-high heat until all pink color disappears.
  2. Add the onions and sauté until translucent. Add garlic and sauté until fragrant, about a minute. Add the wine and allow it to simmer a minute or two before adding the next ingredients.
  3. Add, cinnamon, allspice, cloves (if using), salt, pepper, sugar, tomato sauce and water. Bring the heat down to low and simmer uncovered for at least 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. The sauce should be meat with some juice.
  4. Add the parsley and 1/2 tbsp. butter. (The flavors of the sauce will develop the longer if it sits, and it’s sometimes even better the second day after you make it.)
  5. Prepare the pasta according to package directions. Serve pasta with meat sauce topping and don’t forget the grated cheese.
  6. Note: If you cant find Mizithra or Kefalotyri cheese, substitute with Pecorino Roman or Parmesan Cheese