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? 😂 😂
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
In a large skillet heat EVOO & butter.
On medium-low heat, saute onion & garlic until they are translucent and start to carmelize.
Add salt & pepper along with the dried thyme & stir.
Add the torn spinach and continue to saute until spinach is wilted.
Add the lentils and stir well. Taste and add additional salt, pepper, garlic powder or thyme if needed.
Add the cooked couscous to the lentils and heat for a few minutes until hot.
Place in a bowl, sprinkle with grated Pecorino Romano cheese and enjoy!
Saute onion & garlic in EVOO & Butter
Add torn spinach & continue to saute
Add lentils and couscous
Notes: If too thick, add 1/2 cup chicken broth. To make this dish gluten-free use GF Couscous or GF Orzo pasta.
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. 😋
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
200g feta cheese, crumbled (8 ounces)
generous amount of freshly ground pepper
Preheat oven to 355°F, set to fan mode if possible.
Finely chop spinach, mint, spring onions, dill, and leek. Add them to a large bowl.
Add 2 ½ Tablespoons of the EVOO, salt, pepper, oregano and the feta cheese to the bowl. Stir and your filling is ready!
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.
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.
Cover with a second sheet of phyllo and drizzle with EVOO.
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.
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.
Bake for 35-40 minutes until the spirals are golden.
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.
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!😋😋
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
In a large skillet heat the EVOO over medium-high heat.
Season the meat chunks with salt & freshly ground pepper.
Saute until nicely browned on both sides, do not overcook.
Remove the meat to a platter and keep warm.
Add the leeks, carrots, and onions to hot skillet & saute until nicely tender, about 5-7 minutes.
Add the wine and let it evaporate. Once evaporated, add the stock and simmer 3-5 minutes.
Add the parsley or celery leaves, stir, then add the meat. Remove from heat.
In a medium bowl, using a whisk, beat the egg until frothy. Slowly whisk in the lemon juice.
Ladle 1 cup of the skillet liquid little by little into the egg mixture, constantly whisking to temper the egg & prevent curdling.
Add the egg-lemon mixture to the skillet, stirring gently. Serve immediately over rice or pasta.
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!
Me and my honey, Jack in his famous “blue plaid shirt”!
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
Athens Central Meat Market
Athens Central Meat Market
Athens Central Fish Market
Athens Central Fish Market
Athens Central Produce Market
Vasia getting down to some serious cooking!
A few ingredients to get started!
Mixing custard for dessert
Shredding phyllo dough for dessert
Getting ready to bake the pie
Portokalopita from the Peloponnese (Greek orange phyllo pie)
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.
Typical Nafplio alley
Mirror Mirror on the wall…Jack & Teresa having a ball!
Mitsi from Mitsi’s Style, Me, Heather
Roberto from Gelateria Da Roberto’s
Port of Nafplio
Loved these earrings…they came home with me!
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!
Amazing, Delicious, Heavenly, Impressive are just a few words to describe this mouthwatering dessert! I had the pleasure of learning to make this creamy custard dessert at THE GREEK KITCHEN while in Athens. If working with phyllo was ever intimidating to you then this is the specialty dessert you will love to make to impress your family and friends...the phyllo is shredded and you cannot make a mistake. Imagine mistake proof and impressive! 😋😋😋
500g Phyllo Sheets (18-20 sheets)
4 large eggs
200g sugar (1 cup)
Zest of 2 oranges
300g fresh Greek Yogurt-full fat (1.057 cups or 10.7 ounces)
2 tsp Vanilla extract
1 tsp Baking Powder
200 ml Sunflower oil (7 ounces)
sunflower oil for greasing
200g Sugar (1 cup)
1.5 cups room temperature water
Juice of 2 oranges
1 Cinnamon stick
Preheat oven to 360 F.
Remove the phyllo dough sheets from packaging and shred into small tears using a knife or your hands.
Grease an 8″ or 9″ baking dish or cake pan with sunflower oil.
In a large mixing bowl combine the eggs and sugar with a whisk. Beat until the mixture is pale and frothy.
Add the orange zest, Greek yogurt, vanilla extract, and baking powder and continue to beat until well combined.
While beating, slowly add the sunflower oil.
Gradually put the shredded phyllo into the bowl and combine with a spatula until everything is fully incorporated.
Pour the mixture into the prepared baking pan and place in the oven for 45 minutes-1 hour or until the cake has risen and is golden brown.
When the cake is ready, remove from the oven and leave to cool in the pan. You will need to let the cake cool completely before adding the syrup.
To make the syrup: bring the water, sugar, orange juice, and cinnamon stick to a boil in a saucepan over medium heat for 2 minutes.
Pour the hot syrup over the cold portokalopita and set aside for approximately 1 hour until the syrup has been completely absorbed by the cake.
Slice and serve. It’s amazing on its own but adding a scoop of vanilla ice cream is Divine!
While in Athens I took a 4 hour cooking class at “The Greek Kitchen” and learned to make this delicious tzatziki, the best I ever tasted, along with several other traditional Greek specialties and a trip to the market (butcher, fish, and produce markets ). It's so simple to make and is a great appetizer dip for dolmades, raw vegetables, or as a sauce over chicken or vegetables. I’m working on updating the blog with the other specialties so please standby . 😋
1 large cucumber, peeled
1 carrot, shredded (Optional)
2 cups strained Greek Yogurt, (I used Fage 5% milkfat)
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
Dill, finely chopped to taste
1/4 cup EVOO
1 tsp white wine vinegar
salt & pepper to taste
Slice peeled cucumber lengthwise and remove seeds with a spoon. Sprinkle with a little bit of kosher salt and leave to drain.
Using a cheese grater, grate the cucumber then squeeze with your hands to remove as much liquid as possible and place in a mixing bowl.
Stir in yogurt, finely chopped dill and garlic. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Mix all together well. For best results refrigerate overnight. (2-3 hours is a good amount of time to really let the yogurt take on all the flavors).
Garnish with a sprig of dill & kalamata olive and serve with pita bread as an appetizer or as a delicious topping to souvlaki.
Notes: In the class we omitted the carrot and I omitted it as well for this posting because I prefer Tzatziki without carrot. Feel free to add it as original recipe states.
Every year Gary & I along with Teresa & Jack, celebrate 4th of July on the USS Battleship NC. We sit on the deck with our friends and neighbors and have great conversations, shared laughs and view the most spectacular fireworks display. Everyone brings their own chairs, snacks, food, and drinks. My friend and neighbor, Rob Sherman, brought the most delicious cucumber, tomato & dill salad to share. It was delicious! He said he found the recipe on the internet some time ago & has been making it ever since. We are happy to share Rob's recipe with you. It's light and refreshing for these hot, humid summer nights & naturally gluten-free. Rob, we thank you for sharing your recipe with us so we can pass it along!
4 medium cucumbers, sliced 1/8 inch thick rounds, skin on. (We used a mandolin slicer for uniform slices)
2-3 whole tomatoes, quartered or 1 cup grape tomatoes sliced in half (more or less if you prefer)
2-3 Tablespoons red onion, sliced thin then chopped
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
2 Tablespoons EVOO
2 tsp granulated sugar
1 ¼ tsp sea salt, or more to taste
freshly ground pepper to taste
1/4 cup fresh dill, chopped
In a large bowl combine the vinegar, oil, sugar, salt and a few grinds of pepper. Whisk together.
Add the sliced cucumbers, tomatoes, red onion, and dill then toss to combine.
Cover the bowl and refrigerate at least 30 minutes or overnight to allow the flavors to come together.
Taste and season with additional salt or pepper if needed before serving.
Notes: Leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container up to 3 days.
I recently made this salad with grilled flank steak, chimichurri, and a jasmine rice medley. Pairs well with our Slow Cooker Spare Ribs and corn on the cob.
Last year I gave the Keto diet a try and was pleasantly surprised when my doctor told me to keep doing what I was doing as my labs came back great and I lost 25 pounds! So what did I do? I went to Italy! When we returned from our trip it was very hard to go back on Keto 100%. Well, Teresa is off to Greece so I'm back on Keto. For those of you eating Keto, this is a quick and easy breakfast that satiates you until dinner time and it's a tasty way to start your day. You don't have to follow a Keto diet to enjoy this hearty breakfast!🥓 😋
2 large eggs, beat well with a fork
A 1/4-inch thick slice of onion, diced
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1/2 tsp coconut oil (I use LouAna® Coconut Oil, it has no coconut aroma or taste to distract from your other ingredients.)
salt & pepper to taste
3 slices of bacon (preferably with no antibiotics, sugar-free, & nitrate free)
1-2 Tablespoons shredded Swiss cheese (may be substituted with your favorite cheese)
1 tsp fresh parsley for garnish
Preheat oven to 400°F.
Line a small baking sheet with foil and place the 3 slices of bacon on top.
Cook 4 minutes then turn and cook another 2-4 minutes. Drain on paper towels (You will have perfectly rendered bacon fat that can be stored in a glass container in the refrigerator for future sautéing).
In a small skillet on medium heat place 1/2 tsp coconut oil.
Add the bell peppers and onions, salt & pepper. Saute until translucent.
Lower heat & add the eggs and stir quickly to mix in the peppers & onions.
Gently cook for 1-2 minutes or until the bottom is set and can be flipped over.
Flip eggs and sprinkle Swiss cheese on top.
Cook another 1-2 minutes until eggs are fully cooked but not overcooked.
Slide omelet onto a dish and sprinkle with chopped parsley.
Barbara first made Penne Ala Vodka for her son’s engagement party using a recipe from a friend of a friend. It has undergone a few changes over the years before it became an all-time family favorite. As you may know, whenever possible we always make a gluten-free version of our recipes for Teresa’s husband Jack. We don’t want him to ever feel left out. This recipe was very easy to convert since you just replace regular penne pasta with Gluten-Free penne pasta. Thanks to great improvements in gluten-free products, having Celiac’s disease no longer means you have to miss out on delicious pasta meals.
This recipe is delicious and not your typical restaurant flavor. If you’re not a fan of a little heat, omit the cayenne but it’s really not a strong kick.
Prepare basic tomato sauce ahead of time (see recipe link below)