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Our Journey Begins

 
Toasting to our first night in Rome, April 2018 at the Piccolo Abruzzo Ristorante, Rome, Italy

 

Welcome & thank you for joining us.

We are identical twin sisters Teresa & Barbara, who grew up on Long Island, New York and now happily reside in North Carolina.  We were born 6 minutes apart…Barbara arrived first, which would only be relevant if our parents were King & Queen; which they were not, but she never misses an opportunity to remind me! 😂

Italian food is our heritage and cooking has become our passion. Now that we are both retired we rediscovered our passion for cooking. Here you will find our favorite family recipes that have been handed down for three generations along with some new favorites that we hope you will enjoy as much as we do.

 

About Teresa: After retiring as the controller of a construction management firm, my husband Jack & I moved from the Village of Northport, NY to coastal North Carolina. Our children & grandchildren still reside on Long Island and we go back as often as we can to see them. When not cooking, I still pursue my love of creating fine jewelry in gold, silver, and gemstones along with golfing with friends and playing Mah Jongg.

About Barbara: After just retiring as the Credit & A/R manager for a food supplement company, I accompanied Teresa on the day she moved at the suggestion of my husband Gary. We could write a book on the hilarious adventure during the long ride down, but that’s another story! I fell in love with the community and called Gary to tell him “we” bought a new house in NC! He thought I was joking but 11 months later we moved into our new home. He’s a keeper after 48 years… Our children reside on Long Island and southern California.  I also enjoy creating jewelry when I have the time; however, I’m just not as passionate anymore about jewelry making as Teresa is.

 

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Mom’s Asparagus Patties

 

Mom's Asparagus Patties

  • Difficulty: Easy

Whenever we saw our Mom and Grandma Florence mixing a batch of asparagus patties it sparked our excitement for the upcoming holiday meal. The aroma of cooked asparagus, seasoned bread crumbs, garlic, and grated cheese filled the air and made our mouths water. As kids, we really didn't like a lot of vegetables but asparagus patties were always one vegetable we looked forward too. We would always sneak some from the covered aluminum tray where they piled them up until cooking was complete. To this day we are brought back to our childhood when we make them with loving memories. You don't have to wait for a holiday to make this wonderful side dish. It's a great side that goes well with most poultry, beef, and pork.

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ bundles fresh asparagus
  • 5  eggs
  • 4 Tablespoons Italian seasoned bread crumbs (add additional bread crumbs if the mixture is too loose)
  • 1/2 cup Pecorino Romano Cheese, grated
  •  5 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 Tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
  • Pepper to taste
  • Canola or Vegetable oil for frying

Directions

  1. In a large bowl, beat the eggs then add the grated cheese, parsley, pepper & garlic.
  2. Mix together until everything is combined.
  3. Add cut asparagus to the mixture then add the bread crumbs and mix well. The mixture should be on the thick side but not dry. If too loose add additional bread crumbs 1 tsp at a time. (Not too dry) If too dry, add another egg.
  4. Heat the oil in a skillet until hot then lower flame to medium-low. Using a regular tablespoon drop mixture into skillet to form patties.
  5. Let cook until brown. Turn over and cook another minute or two.
  6. Remove each pattie with open spatula and place on a paper towel-lined plate. Make layers of patties using paper towels in-between to absorb the excess oil.
  7. When all patties are cooked, pat excess oil off and place on a serving platter.
  8. Serve warm or room temperature.

Notes: Try adding some crumbled bacon or diced pancetta to the mixture for a punch of savory.

 

 

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Gluten-Free Asparagus Patties

 

Gluten-Free Asparagus Patties

  • Difficulty: Easy

Whenever we saw our Mom and Grandma Florence mixing a batch of asparagus patties it sparked our excitement for the upcoming holiday meal. The aroma of cooked asparagus, seasoned bread crumbs, garlic, and grated cheese filled the air and made our mouths water. As kids, we really didn't like a lot of vegetables but asparagus patties were always one vegetable we looked forward too. We would always sneak some from the covered aluminum tray where they piled them up until cooking was complete. To this day we are brought back to our childhood when we make them with loving memories. We adapted Mom's recipe to be Gluten-Free for Jack and found it to be just as good as the original. You don't have to wait for a holiday to make this wonderful side dish. It's a great side that goes well with most poultry, beef, and pork.

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ bundles fresh asparagus
  • 5  eggs
  • 4 Tablespoons Gluten-Free Italian seasoned bread crumbs (add additional bread crumbs if the mixture is too loose)
  • 1/2 cup Pecorino Romano Cheese, grated
  •  5 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 Tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
  • Pepper to taste
  • Canola or Vegetable oil for frying

Directions

  1. In a large bowl, beat the eggs then add the grated cheese, parsley, pepper & garlic.
  2. Mix together until everything is combined.
  3. Add cut asparagus to the mixture then add the bread crumbs and mix well. The mixture should be on the thick side but not dry. If too loose add additional bread crumbs 1 tsp at a time. (Not too dry) If too dry, add another egg.
  4. Heat the oil in a skillet until hot then lower flame to medium-low. Using a regular tablespoon drop mixture into skillet to form patties.
  5. Let cook until brown. Turn over and cook another minute or two.
  6. Remove each pattie with open spatula and place on a paper towel-lined plate. Make layers of patties using paper towels in-between to absorb the excess oil.
  7. When all patties are cooked, pat excess oil off and place on a serving platter.
  8. Serve warm or room temperature.

Notes: Try adding some crumbled bacon or diced pancetta to the mixture for a punch of savory.

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Pistachio Pesto Sauce

 


  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: Easy

We love pistachios! They are so versatile whether eating them from the shell, making an amazing gelato, encrusting fish filets or turning them into a wonderful pesto sauce for pasta! On my recent trip to Greece, I made sure to bring home an ample supply of Greek pistachios, determined to use them in cooking. So yesterday Barbara and I, while shopping for dinner, picked up 4 lbs of sea scallops, the large ones you most often find in restaurants, not the tiny bay ones. As you may remember from our recent pesto post we have an abundance of basil from our gardens so making more pesto was the best way to use it. This time instead of using traditional pignoli (pine nuts) we would use those wonderful pistachios from Greece (California pistachios are fine too). I also wanted to make the pesto using the old, traditional mortar and pestle to test if there really is a difference. Well, after 30 minutes of crushing pistachios into a paste by hand and pummeling only 1/4 of the basil our hands decided it was time to take out the food processor! I must admit, the pesto came out extremely creamy which I believe was the result of the mortar and pestle for half the process, but as far as taste goes the food processor did a fine job. Our pan-seared scallops topped with pistachio pesto were out of this world delicious! 😋😋

Ingredients

  • 4 cups loosely packed basil leaves that have been soaked in cold water then dried using a salad spinner to drain all the water without damage to the leaves.
  • 1 cup salted pistachios, shelled
  • 4 cloves garlic (frozen cubes work well as they are uniform in size)
  • 6-8 tablespoon EVOO (preferably Ligurian EVOO)
  • 4 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano Reggiano grated cheese (do not add cheese if you plan to freeze the pesto for later use. Once defrosted the cheese can be mixed in)

Directions

  1. In a food processor add pistachios and garlic. Pulse into a smooth paste.
  2. Add the basil in small amounts then pulse after each addition until all the basil has been added and the mixture is creamy & smooth. Slowly (slow is key here) add the EVOO until emulsified.
  3. Add lemon juice, 1 tablespoon at a time.
  4. If you are making to freeze,  🛑 ✋ stop here and put into freezable containers & place in the freezer.
  5.  Add cheese and pulse to incorporate.
  6. If too dry add additional EVOO slowly, 1 Tablespoon at a time.

Notes:  If you plan to freeze for future use, do not add the cheese. Cheese should be added after being thawed.  Great over pasta, fish, chicken, potatoes, sandwiches, etc…

 

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Pesto Sauce

 


  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: Easy

This summer we have an abundance of basil from our hay bale gardens and have been making pesto for a variety of meals, including breakfast! Not only is pesto delicious on pasta but it's just as delicious on fish, vegetables, chicken or just about anything! Last year our friend, Jane Hall, grew tomatoes and basil in hay bales...we grew ours in traditional dirt. The difference was amazing...the hay bale crop far exceeded the traditional dirt crop and made us believers. Gary bought the bales at the local hardware store then quickly got to preparing them with fertilizer and water. After two weeks of daily watering, we planted our basil and tomatoes along with some other herbs and couldn't be happier with the results. If you never tried this method before, it's definitely worth the minimal effort.😋😋

Ingredients

  • 3 Tablespoons Pignoli Nuts (Italian pine nuts)
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 2  cups fresh sweet Italian basil leaves, packed tightly (approximately 2 very large bunches)
  • 8 Tablespoons EVOO, preferably Ligurian as it makes a big difference in taste
  • 1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, or Pecorino Romano, freshly grated

Directions

  1. In a food processor add pignoli nuts, salt, and garlic cloves. Pulse into a smooth paste.
  2. Add the basil in small amounts then pulse after each addition until all the basil has been added and the mixture is creamy & smooth. Slowly (slow is key here) add the EVOO until emulsified.
  3. If you are making to freeze,  🛑 ✋ stop here and put into freezable containers & place in the freezer.
  4. Add cheese and pulse to incorporate.
  5. If too dry add additional EVOO slowly, 1 Tablespoon at a time.

 

Notes: If you plan to freeze for future use, do not add the cheese. Cheese should be added after being thawed. Great over pasta, fish, chicken, potatoes, sandwiches, etc…

 

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Jasmine Rice Pilaf – Twiins Style

 


  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: Easy

Jasmine rice, with its fragrant characteristic aroma, is a wonderful side dish on its own; however, when we added just a few simple ingredients it exploded with flavor and has become a family favorite. Although Jasmine rice is typically used in Thai cuisine it is equally popular in Middle Eastern cuisine and has become our go-to rice for many side dishes. Although it has a unique fragrance it won't interfere with any cuisine and is delicious.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups Jasmine Rice
  • 3 cups water or chicken broth
  • 1 Tablespoon butter
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup EVOO, for sautéeing
  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • 1  Red Bell Peppers, seeded and diced
  • 1 Yellow or Orange Bell Pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1 ½ cups fresh or frozen peas
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped (optional)
  •  salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1.  Add rice, salt, water or broth, and butter in a deep saucepan.
  2. Bring to a boil over high heat.
  3. When it comes to a boil, stir and reduce heat to low. Cover the pan tightly and cook without stirring 18-20 minutes.
  4. Remove from heat.  Keep covered and let stand for 10-15 minutes. Fluff with a fork.
  5. In a large deep skillet or wok heat EVOO until hot.
  6. Sauté onions and bell peppers. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Add fresh or frozen peas and continue to cook 3 minutes.
  8. Add the cooked rice to the skillet and stir to combine well on low-medium heat.
  9. Remove from heat and serve.

Notes: The fresher the rice is, the more aroma it will have. 

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Mahi-Mahi & Vegetable Salsa – Twiins Style

 


  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: Easy

Ingredients

  • 8 Mahi-Mahi fillets (or fish fillets of your choice)- cut into 3 or 4-inch sections.
  • 1 large onion, chopped fine
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 1 lime, sliced thin for garnish
  • 5 tomatoes, seeded & chopped
  • 5-6 shallots, chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • Capers (8 oz. jar)
  • 1 cup EVOO
  • 1½ tsp fresh thyme (more or less to taste)

Directions

  1. In a medium bowl combine the EVOO, capers, basil, thyme, shallots, tomatoes, lemon juice, lime juice, onions, 1½ tsp salt & 1½ tsp pepper. Mix well, cover and refrigerate at least an hour or overnight.
  2. Position your oven rack at about 5 inches from the broiler and preheat the broiler.
  3. Place the fish fillets on a baking sheet then season with salt & pepper.
  4. Broil fillets on first side approximately 2-3 minutes, being careful not to overcook as they cook quickly.
  5. Remove from broiler and turn fillets over.
  6. Top each fillet with a scoop of vegetable salsa.
  7. Return to broiler and cook until fish is fully cooked through the middle. The fish should be opaque in color.
  8. Garnish each dish with a slice of lime. Serve as is with a salad or over your favorite rice or pasta.

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Montauk Lentils & Couscous

 


  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: Easy

In August of 2010 Teresa and I took an end of summer weekend trip to Montauk, Long Island with all of our girls. My youngest niece Lauren was also passing on the ‘clean-up’ torch to my granddaughter which she adamantly refused to accept! Our group of seven included me, my daughter Jennifer, granddaughter Stefani, Teresa, her daughters Tracy, Susan, Lauren and Kerri, her daughter-in-law. We were all crammed into a 2 bedroom rental for an end of summer weekend getaway with just us girls to relax & enjoy the sun and beach. Teresa bought matching whimsical nightgowns from Kohl's to commemorate the trip (as was her custom). Needless to say, it rained the whole time we were there! No sun, no beach, but plenty of food and laughs. We brought an abundance of groceries with us but forgot the couscous. When lunchtime came around we went to the only store close to our rental and purchased some. I originally came up with this dish for my son Jason's vegetarian friend when he was in college. It quickly became a favorite of mine as it was so quick and easy to prepare. The girls loved it and couldn't get enough of it so the recipe became known as Montauk Lentils & Couscous. When the rain finally stopped it was time to head back home. Although we were rained out for the entire weekend, we made our own sunshine & have the best memories of our girls trip.🌞🌞 The Rhode Island girls trip is another story...has anyone seen the Naval War College? Where's the token for the bridge, again? 😂 😂

Ingredients

  • 2 cans lentils, do not drain (or 2 cups cooked brown lentils)
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 handful fresh spinach, torn into small pieces
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 2-3 Tablespoons EVOO
  • 1 Tablespoon butter
  • 1 ½ cups cooked Israeli couscous  (aka Pearl couscous)
  • Pecorino Romano  cheese, grated
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth if needed

Directions

  1. In a large skillet heat EVOO & butter.
  2. On medium-low heat, saute onion & garlic until they are translucent and start to carmelize.
  3. Add salt & pepper along with the dried thyme & stir.
  4. Add the torn spinach and continue to saute until spinach is wilted.
  5. Add the lentils and stir well. Taste and add additional salt, pepper, garlic powder or thyme if needed.
  6.  Add the cooked couscous to the lentils and heat for a few minutes until hot.
  7. Place in a bowl, sprinkle with grated Pecorino Romano cheese and enjoy!

Notes:  If too thick, add 1/2 cup chicken broth. To make this dish gluten-free use  GF  Couscous or GF Orzo pasta.

 

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Greek Spiral Spanakopita – Spinach and Feta Pie

 


  • Difficulty: Easy

As with ethnic food all over the world there are as many versions of Spanakopita as there are Greek Islands, so I am happy to share with you the version I learned to make at the cooking class I took in Athens at THE GREEK KITCHEN. Our class was small with only 6 students which made our hands-on experience so enjoyable! It's really fun to make, easy and so versatile. 😋

Ingredients

  • 1 package frozen phyllo dough (defrosted overnight in the refrigerator)
  • 50ml EVOO (4-5 Tablespoons)
  • 2 spring onions (aka scallions or green onions)
  • 300g spinach, fresh, wilted (1 ½ -2 cups)
  • 1/4 bunch of mint
  • 2 sprigs fresh oregano
  • 1 leek
  • 200g feta cheese, crumbled (8 ounces)
  • generous amount of freshly ground pepper
  • salt

    Directions

    1. Preheat oven to 355°F, set to fan mode if possible.
    2. Finely chop spinach, mint, spring onions, dill, and leek. Add them to a large bowl.
    3. Add 2 ½ Tablespoons of the EVOO, salt, pepper, oregano and the feta cheese to the bowl. Stir and your filling is ready!
    4. Remove the phyllo dough from the package and cut the tape with scissors and spread the sheets of phyllo out on a clean working surface.
    5. Dip a pastry brush into the remaining EVOO and drizzle over the sheet of phyllo dough without letting the brush directly touch the phyllo. The reason you don’t allow the brush to touch the sheets is that the sheets will stick together and won’t bake correctly.
    6. Cover with a second sheet of phyllo and drizzle with EVOO.
    7. Spread the filling in a straight line and roll the phyllo, then shape it into a spiral-like form and place it in the pan.
    8. Eggwash the top of the formed spiral, drizzle a small amount of EVOO, sprinkle with some sesame seeds, and finally sprinkle some water sparingly to prevent drying out.
    9. Bake for 35-40 minutes until the spirals are golden.
    10. Remove from the oven and let cool on a rack for 15 minutes. Enjoy!

    Notes:  Spanakopita is wonderful on its own as a main dish but can also be cut into 2-3 inch pieces and served as an appetizer with Tzatziki sauce for dipping.  You can really substitute any leafy vegetable or cheese you like to make your own family favorite.

    “The Greek Kitchen”

    Athens, Athinas 36, Athina 105  51, Greece

    +306978464701

     

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    Avgolemono with Chicken (Authentic Greek Chicken in Egg-Lemon Sauce)

     


    • Servings: 6
    • Difficulty: Easy

    Avgolemono is a staple in Greek cooking used for sauces and soups. The only ingredients are eggs, lemon juice, and broth. I asked Marina, my wonderful tour guide in Athens, what her favorite Greek dish was and she was kind enough to share it with me. She enjoys this dish with either chicken or pork and since we had chicken tenders on hand we made the dish with chicken. The blended flavors worked so well together...mild, but extremely flavorful. Our husbands and nephew along with myself and Barbara really enjoyed this dish, which we served over Jasmine rice. This will definitely be a repeat meal for family and friends!😋😋

    Ingredients

    • 1/2 cup EVOO
    • 2 lbs chicken tenders or pork (cut into 1″ pieces)
    • 3 leeks, diced
    • 3 spring onions (scallions), diced
    • 3 carrots, diced
    • 2 cups chicken stock or vegetable stock
    • 1/2 cup white wine
    • celery leaves or parsley cut into pieces (we used Italian parsley)
    • 1/4 cup fresh dill, chopped
    • juice of 1 large lemon
    • 1 extra large egg, room temperature
    • salt & pepper to taste

      Directions

      1. In a large skillet heat the EVOO over medium-high heat.
      2. Season the meat chunks with salt & freshly ground pepper.
      3. Saute until nicely browned on both sides, do not overcook.
      4. Remove the meat to a platter and keep warm.
      5. Add the leeks, carrots, and onions to hot skillet & saute until nicely tender, about 5-7 minutes.
      6. Add the wine and let it evaporate. Once evaporated, add the stock and simmer 3-5 minutes.
      7. Add the parsley or celery leaves, stir, then add the meat. Remove from heat.
      8. In a medium bowl, using a whisk, beat the egg until frothy. Slowly whisk in the lemon juice.
      9. Ladle 1 cup of the skillet liquid little by little into the egg mixture, constantly whisking to temper the egg & prevent curdling.
      10. Add the egg-lemon mixture to the skillet, stirring gently. Serve immediately over rice or pasta.

       

       

      Marina Tsikou- food experience designer +30 6946 907062 marina@greekality.com www.greekality.com

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      My Greece and Turkey Travels- Spring 2019

       

      We started our trip flying out of Charlotte, North Carolina heading to Athens.  After 2 days of exploring the city, we traded the pavement for the sparkling, azure waters of the Aegean Sea. When we arrived at the Port of Piraeus we boarded a 148 passenger sailing yacht ready to explore the Islands of Greece.  I never thought I would travel on a sailing yacht ⛵ (I don’t know how to swim and a little hesitant!); however, it was an amazing way to travel the Greek Islands. Much to my surprise I didn’t get seasick or have to use the life jacket…what a relief! Each night we would sail to a new island, in the morning we enjoyed breakfast on the ship, then explored what each island had to offer for most of the day.

      Our trip was wonderful and I’m happy to share with you some of our memorable outings and the best, authentic, Greek and Turkish food I was fortunate to sample!

      We arrived in Athens to an overcast sky, but within a short time, the sun gave way to a beautiful day. On our way to the hotel, the St. George Lycabettus, our 35-minute ride from the airport took us through many narrow winding hilltop roads filled with motor scooters and small cars navigating like a symphony…it was seamless!  I was so pleased and surprised to see beautiful oleander flowers in every color growing on many sidewalks, lining so much of the pavement and bougainvillea hanging from balconies in rich deep fuschia pink. When I saw the beautiful, lush, lantana flowers displaying the most beautiful multi-colored blooms in massive plantings I thought I was back in North Carolina! I knew  I would love Greece and it’s people!

      Once we settled into our room Jack and I met our friends to explore the panoramic view from the rooftop restaurant and bar at St. George Lycabettus…it did not disappoint!!! To see the Acropolis from an unobstructed vantage point was truly breathtaking!

      There are many historical and places of antiquity to see in Athens but due to having only 1 ½ days, I had to narrow it down to just a few. First I arranged a private foodie tour with a local young woman, Marina Tsikou. She was so knowledgeable not only about food but very knowledgeable about Athens and it’s history. Our first stop was to the ERGON HOUSE located in the Syntagma district. Ergon House is a very unique Hotel, a cafe along with a butcher shop, bakery, deli, and groceries all in one place. Marina’s choice of mezes  (appetizers), was excellent… Dolmadakia (grape leaves stuffed with rice and herbs), Bougiourdi (melted feta cheese, tomato, peppers), Melitzanosalata (eggplant), Tirokafteri (spicy feta dip), pita bread, and Pastourmadopitakia (little pies with highly seasoned, air-dried cured beef sausage known as pastourma).  From Ergon House, we were off to experience authentic Greek Souvlaki at STREET SOUVLAKI   (Kolokotroni 30, Athina 105 62, Greece).  We were served several different types of delicious souvlaki and as is custom in Greece,  French fries are served inside the pita.  To make our food tour even more memorable, Marina took us to the best small patisserie in the district of Psyrri,  Ta Serbetia Tou Psyrri (105 54, Eschilou 3, Athina 105 54) for delicious desserts!  None of us (except Jack – celiac) was able to resist trying each selection offered to us along with trying  Greek coffee. The owner brought us a large plate with several desserts, galaktoboureko, ekmek kataifi, and the ice cream is mastiha or kaimaki.  Galaktoboureko is a creamy custard made from semolina, wrapped in sheets of phyllo and soaked in syrup. It is delicate and sweet.  Ekmek  Kataifi is a pastry made from a shredded type of phyllo dough with a lemon syrup and whipped cream topped with chopped pistachios. Lastly, we had ice cream called mastiha or kaimaki ( made from resins of the mastic tree that give it a sort of stretchiness and a cedar or pine flavor. Marina made sure to accommodate Jack as he was only able to sit by and watch us devour the scrumptious pastries.  Having Celiac disease can be quite challenging when visiting abroad; however, much to his delight, she ordered ice cream for him. Marina shared with me one of her favorite Greek dishes; anything made with Avgolemono (egg and lemon sauce). She sent me the recipe of the way she likes it with chicken or pork and I’m happy to share it with all our followers. (We will be making it tonight so look for the recipe and photos tomorrow).  If you will be traveling to Athens I highly recommend you contact Marina to arrange a food tour…She is the best!

      Marina Tsikou, food experience designer  +30 6946 907062

      marina@greekality.com www.greekality.com

      The next day we took a tour of the highlights of Athens: A Greek Mythology tour where we visited The Acropolis (Parthenon, Theater of Dionysus, Temple of Athena Nike, Temple of Erechtheion, Sanctuary of Asclepius), Olympian Zeus Temple, Ancient Agora, Temple of Hephaestus. We learned about Greek Gods and Heroes and discovered some of the reality behind the universal myths.  We enjoyed spectacular views and discovered that I was very capable of making it to the top of the Acropolis/Parthenon without much effort. True, it was very uneven and a little slippery at times, but I was careful.  Our tour guide found a nice quiet place for Jack & Steve to find shelter from the blazing sun while I journeyed to the top with my friend Heather! We took smiling selfies when we made it to the top!

      Later that afternoon I headed to “The Greek Kitchen” for my much-anticipated cooking class. I must confess, taking the cooking class was the single most event I couldn’t wait to immerse myself in! I met my instructor, Vasia, a young Greek woman at the top of the stairs as she greeted us. The first order of business was a trip to the bustling central market, meat, fish, and produce where we picked up a few items for our post-tour dinner. We enjoyed the enthusiasm displayed by the vendors…each shouting out to direct you to them.  I must say the fish market was an assault on my olfactory senses…actually the “aroma” blew me out of the water😂! We were all happy to head back to class and start cooking.

      First, we made Tzatziki which was so easy and the best I ever tasted. I learned that the key to good Tzatziki is shredding and squeezing all the liquid out of the cucumbers. The next dish we prepared was Spiral Spanakopita with sesame seeds. Spanakopita has always been a favorite dish of mine so I was happy learning to make it in a spiral shape.  All the same main ingredients: phyllo dough, spinach, and feta cheese…scrumptious! Dolmades, stuffed grape leaves, was the star of the cooking class for me. (Although in class we used fresh grape leaves, I was able to get them in a jar from California when I made them after returning home). I found the process of stuffing and rolling the grape leaves somewhat meditative…knowing that these little rolled up delights would be enjoyed by friends and family. Greek meals without an eggplant dish is unheard of…so when Vasia brought out the eggplants I couldn’t wait to hear about which eggplant dish we’d be making. Today it would be Imam Baildi from Crete aka Greek stuffed eggplants. This is a traditional Greek dish stuffed with onions, garlic, tomatoes, parsley, and feta cheese…absolutely delicious!

      Vasia chose the most wonderful dessert for our class to make…Portokalopita from The Peloponnese – Greek Orange Phyllo Pie 😋😋😋 The version we made called for shredded phyllo dough instead of the more traditional phyllo sheets along with orange zest, fresh squeezed orange juice, eggs, and cinnamon. Surprisingly light, but rich and creamy.  Did I mention how delicious it was?  All these recipes are on the blog with many thanks to Vasia and The Greek Kitchen. Please look them up when you’re in Athens You’ll find them upstairs between the hat shop and the hardware store. Just follow the signs up to the second floor.

      The Greek Kitchen

      Athinas Street 36 2nd floor, 10551 Athens

      www.greekkitchenathens.com or call +30 6993871820

      I hope to return to Athens to explore more of this wonderful city. We said farewell to Athens in the morning as we set sail to the romantic, seaside city of Nafplio.  Nafplio is comprised of narrow cobblestone alleys in a medieval old town once under Venetian rule and later under Ottoman rule. Venetian architecture and Ottoman structures can be found throughout the city. While shopping in one of the local boutiques, “Mitsi’s Style”, I found a pair of earrings (costume) I couldn’t resist. Mitsi, the owner was very engaging and later gave us a recommendation to an authentic Italian gelato shop in the old town.

       

       

      After leaving Nafplio we sailed that evening to the island of Mykonos… a classic Greek island dotted with hundreds of whitewashed churches and 16th-century thatch-roofed windmills sitting above the town. Our next stop is Ermoupoli, Syros. We traveled to many other islands; each with their own distinctive flavor, each beautiful, and each begging for you to stay longer. We had the pleasure of wading in the beautiful Aegean Sea while in Crete, saw the donkey walk on the streets of Fira in Santorini, went to Santos Winery and enjoyed grilled octopus for lunch while sipping wine and overlooking the spectacular view of the famous caldera.

      One of the most memorable places we visited was the western coast of Turkey in the cities of Kusadasi and Ephesus.  Our guide, Taz, took us to many places of interest; however,  the outdoor luncheon he arranged for us was outstanding!  We enjoyed the hospitality of local Turkish people and delicious food, wine,  coffee, and baklava at a wonderful “farm-to-table” establishment in the city of Selcuk-Zeytinkoy.

      Sailing on a small ship definitely has many perks and one of the best is its  “Destination Discovery Event” in Ephesus, Turkey. What an amazing, memorable event it was. After a long day of exploring the ancient outdoor museum, we headed back to the ship to rejuvenate ourselves for a very special evening. Windstar arranged for all the passengers to go back to Ephesus by motor coach and there treated us to the most wonderful moonlight dinner and concert at the Celsus Library.  The evening was perfect, the picture-perfect sky, a soft breeze, and dining with our friends where once over 12,000 ancient scrolls of manuscripts were housed in niches on the wall and where the tomb of Gaius Julius Celsus is buried beneath the ground floor. What a perfect way to bring our travels to a close.  I hope someday to return to Greece and Turkey…history, culture, food, and people; so much more to explore and fall in love with!