everything granola bars

We never manage to have snacks in the house beyond the occasional orange, but now that it’s spring and we’re out and about more, walking, going for runs, going to the beach, etc., having a ‘grab and go’ snack is necessary.  So… homemade granola bars it is!

I’m calling these “everything” granola bars because in order to make them, I opened my cabinets and took out almost everything in them.  Granola bars are one of those foods that is endlessly variable to your taste and the state of your cupboards.  I modeled my recipe after the Smitten Kitchen version, which is based on the King Arthur Flour recipe, but of course after I made my requisite 500 changes, my recipe is quite different from hers.

I want to be clear up front – you don’t have to ‘follow’ this recipe to make these.  Use what you like, what you have, what’s available where you live.  You can mess with the proportions even.  All that really matters is that your dry / wet proportions are such that the mixture is thick but not dry.  (By the way… many commenters on the Smitten Kitchen recipe complain that their bars crumbled.  I didn’t have that problem; I’d love to think it’s the Chian mastic that makes the difference, but the truth is I have no idea.)

So here’s how I did it.

Start with a big bowl o’ oatmeal.  I used quick oats because that’s all they sell in Greece.  Deb of Smitten Kitchen says that if you use regular oats, you should put them through a food processor first to break them up a bit.  For readers in Greece:  quick oats are the standard type in Greece (Quaker, Fytro), though they don’t say so on the package.

Scoop out about a cup of them and run them through a grain mill or a good food processor to get fine oat flour.  You can also use prepared oat flour if you have it, of course.  I used my hand-powered grain mill for this and the result was beautiful silky white oat flour and a tired bicep.

In a food processor, combine the raisins, dried blueberries, and almonds and process for several minutes.

Get out a huge bowl.  Put your oats and your oat flour in the bowl.  Add in the sugar, salt, and artificial sweetener.  (I use artificial sweetener, saccharin specifically, to keep these from getting out of control calorie-wise.  You can leave it out completely (especially if you don’t like sweet granola bars), use a different sweetener, use more sugar, whatever you like.  I don’t like aspartame, but I don’t have a beef with saccharin; if you do, just adjust the sugar to your taste.)

Add in the remaining dry ingredients:  the dried fruit from the food processor, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, shredded coconut, and cinnamon. Chop and add the figs. Grind and add the mastic.

I used my “Rescued Sesame Seeds” in this recipe. I collect sesame seeds that fall off of things and keep them in a jar. 99% of them come from sesame seed breadsticks. When the bag is empty, there are usually at least 2 tbsp of sesame seeds in the bottom. I love to use them in cooking – so much better than throwing them away!

I add Chian mastic to this as well. This may not be readily available where you live, so don’t worry if that’s the case; if you have it, try it. It adds a wonderful flavor and aroma and it gives the bars a bit more chewiness. Just put a few pearls in a mortar and grind them up.

Mix it all up well.

Melt the butter.  I melted mine in a bain marie (in a bowl over boiling water) but you can use a microwave if you have one.  Add the honey, glucose syrup / corn syrup, tahini, and molasses to the butter, and mix.

Pour it all over the dry ingredients and stir together.

Add the sesame oil and continue stirring until it is all combined and there are no ‘dry’ patches.  If it is too dry, add a little more sesame oil.

Put it in your pan and press it down really well so that the top is very flat and it reaches into the corners.  Bake for about half an hour.

Let it cool in the pan on a rack for several hours, and then slice into pieces.  I got 32 pieces out of this recipe (cut into quarters, then quarters again, and then halves), each piece with about 116 calories.  You can also make the pieces twice as large, 232 calories each, of course.

S and I agreed that these taste much better than the storebought kind, and they really are fun and easy to make!

Everything Granola Bars
makes 32 pieces

230g quick oats
110g white granulated sugar
5 packets saccharin (or other artificial sweetener, or another 1/2 cup sugar)
1/2 tsp salt
40g almonds (any type)
50g raisins
70g dried blueberries
30g sesame seeds
10g poppy seeds
25g shredded coconut
4 dried figs, chopped finely
1 tsp Chian mastic pearls, crushed with a mortar & pestle
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
85g butter
85g honey
2 tbsp glucose syrup / light corn syrup
1/2 tbsp molasses
1 tbsp tahini
2 tbsp sesame oil

1. Prepare pan: line a square baking pan with a wax paper sling, and spray well with cooking spray.

2. Grind a cup of the quick oats to a fine flour. In a food processor, process raisins, almonds, and blueberries for several minutes until in small pieces.

3. In a large bowl, combine the oats, oat flour, sugar, sweetener, salt, processed raisins, almonds, and blueberries, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, coconut, figs, and crushed Chian mastic.

4. Preheat oven to 180 C / 350 F. Melt butter. Add honey, syrup, molasses, and tahini to butter, stirring. Pour over dry ingredients and combine. Add sesame oil and combine well.

5. Pour into prepared pan. Press and smooth top until flat and even. Bake 30 minutes or until lightly brown on top.

6. Cool on rack in pan. When completely cool, cut into 32 pieces. Wrap in foil or store in airtight box. Can be frozen.

Nutritional Information
per piece, i.e., 1/32 of recipe

116 calories
5g fat (2g saturated, 3g unsaturated)
17g carbohydrate
2g protein
2g dietary fiber
6mg cholesterol (2% DV)
64mg sodium (3% DV)
96mg potassium (3% DV)
Contains 23% DV of manganese.

You might also like:
Anise-almond biscotti with orange glaze
Raisin walnut whole wheat bread

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pork gyros with everything

The ultimate Greek street food is called ‘gyros.’  The word ‘gyros,’ as you can probably guess, comes from the Greek word that means ‘around.’  A gyros is a sandwich, with either pita or bread, with meat (usually) stuck on a rotating metal spear.  The rotation is how they got their name.  The most common type of gyros is pork; outside of major cities, it is often the only kind available.  The second most common type is chicken; most gyros shops have these.  It is very rare to see other types; however you may come across lamb or even beef.  My city is one of the only places in Greece where you can get beef – although technically this is the Turkish döner rather than Greek gyros.  You can also order gyros without meat; these are popular during Lent.

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Gyros is such a popular food in Greece that it makes up an entire industry – and despite the economic crisis, it is reported to be doing very well.  Gyros are sold in shops that go by various names:  ovelistirio (‘obelisk store’ because the rotating meat spear resembles an obelisk), gyradiko (‘gyros shop’), souvlatzidiko (‘souvlaki shop,’ a reference to gyros’ cousin souvlaki, which is square chunks of meat cooked on a grill), sandwichadiko (‘sandwich shop’), and fastfoodadiko (you can figure that one out yourself).  Even the smallest Greek town will have at least one of these.  They tend to open up around 5pm, and they deliver until late into the night.  They are very popular among college students, bachelors, and tourists.

The ritual of ordering a gyros is as follows:  first, you indicate that you are ordering the gyros wrapped up in a pita (or in bread), as opposed to the much more expensive plated version.  Then you specify your meat choice, and then what extras you want.  The standard extras are fried potatoes, tomato, and onion.  In northern Greece, mustard and ketchup are also standard.  In southern Greece, tzatziki is very common.  You can also ask for a different sauce; there are usually six or seven other options.  Most people order their gyros ‘with everything.’

You don’t have to be in Greece to eat gyros, though.  You can make it at home and it’s pretty close.  I sure as heck don’t have a rotating obelisk of meat in my house; I just bought some boneless pork and cut it into pieces.  Because the meat in a gyros is thinly sliced pork, this is pretty close.  (Turkish döner uses ground beef but that’s not how it’s done in Greece.)

When I made gyros at home, I made everything except the ketchup from scratch.  You can decide what you want to make from scratch based on what you have available and how much work you want to do.

The first step is to start the dough for the pita bread.  I used my regular pillowy pita bread recipe for this.  Follow that recipe through the first rise and then come back here.

Once the pita bread dough is rising in its bowl, it’s time to prepare the pork.  I bought boneless pork and cut it into small pieces.

Make the marinade:  cider vinegar, oregano, thyme, cumin, Spanish smoked paprika, and ground pepper.  (I used salt also but you don’t have to.)

Combine it all well in a bowl and add the pork.  Cover and refrigerate.

Next, make the mustard.  You can use any kind of mustard you like, but I recommend a ‘standard’ type, not Dijon or honey mustard.  To make mustard, mix two parts mustard powder with one part vinegar and one part water.  Whisk it together well, cover, and refrigerate also.  (If you’re a mustard weirdo like me, you can put all kinds of spices in it.  But this is totally unnecessary.)  When you’re ready to use it, whisk it again; you may want to whisk in a little additional water to return it to the proper consistency.  It keeps well due to the vinegar so you can make more than you’re going to use for this recipe if you like.  Or, you know, just open a jar of mustard.

Now, make the tzatziki.  (Note: this is tzatziki for gyros, not real tzatziki.  Real tzatziki has a lot of cucumber in it.  We’ll make that some other time.)  Stir together the yogurt, dill, and garlic, with a pinch of salt.  Set aside.  Preheat the oven.

Cut four pieces of wax paper to about 10″ wide.  Set aside.  Slice the tomatoes and onions very thinly and set aside.

Wash and slice the potatoes into french fry shape.  (Note:  I made more than the recipe calls for in the above photo so that we could have extra on the side.)  In a large bowl, toss the sliced potatoes with the olive oil and salt.  Arrange on a baking sheet and bake, periodically moving them around, until they are crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, about 50 minutes.  Put them aside for now.  Turn the oven to its maximum temperature, with an overturned baking sheet on the middle rack.  (Note #2:  the traditional way to make potatoes for gyros is to fry them.  You can certainly do that if you prefer.)

When the pita dough has risen, press it down and divide into four, rather than eight, pieces.  Continue to follow the pita instructions through baking them.  They should bake in about 3 minutes.

In a pan sprayed with non-stick spray, stir-fry the marinated pork pieces.  This will take a while; you want them to start to brown.  Taste a little piece:  it shouldn’t taste like vinegar at all.  When the pork reaches a golden brown / pink color, remove it from the heat.  While these are cooking, put the potatoes back in the oven to keep them warm.

To assemble the gyros, place one pita on one end of a piece of wax paper.  Put a few tablespoons of tzatziki on the pita.  Layer on the tomato and onion slices.  Then add the pork and potatoes. Add a little bit of mustard and ketchup.

Curl the pita tightly around itself and wrap tightly with the wax paper.

One of these is very filling!  This recipe makes enough for four people.

Pork Gyros
serves 4

1 recipe of Pillowy Pita Bread
300g boneless pork, raw
500g potatoes, raw
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp Spanish smoked paprika
1/2 tsp ground pepper
1 tsp salt, divided
1 tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup Greek strained yogurt, any fat content
1 tsp dried dill or 1 tbsp fresh dill
2 cloves garlic, pressed
2 tbsp mustard powder
1 tbsp red or white wine vinegar
2 tbsp tomato ketchup
1 medium tomato, sliced very thin
1 small onion, sliced very thin

1. Prepare the Pillowy Pita Bread according to the recipe, but making 4 large pitas instead of 8 regular ones.

2. Make the marinade: in a medium bowl, mix together the cider vinegar, oregano, thyme, cumin, smoked paprika, pepper, and 1 tsp salt. Add the pork; cover and refrigerate for 2 hours. Preheat the oven to 180 C / 350 F.

3. Make the mustard: in a small bowl, whisk the mustard powder with the wine vinegar and 1 tbsp water. Optional: whisk in pinches of other flavorings, for example whole mustard seeds, horseradish powder, cumin, toasted onion powder, dark brown sugar, etc. Cover and refrigerate.

4. Make the tzatziki: in a small bowl, stir together the yogurt, dill, and garlic with a pinch of salt. Set aside.

5. Slice the potatoes into french fry shape. In a large bowl, toss with the olive oil and the remaining salt. Arrange on a baking sheet and bake until crispy, about 45-50 minutes, periodically moving them around to prevent sticking and to bake on all sides. Set aside, and turn oven to maximum heat with a baking sheet overturned on the middle rack.

6. Bake pitas according to pita recipe. Cut four pieces of wax paper 10″ wide, leaving them their original length (about 22″).  Replace the potatoes in the oven (turned off) to keep them warm.

7. Spray a nonstick pan with olive oil. Stirfry the marinated pork until golden brown. Transfer to a bowl.

8. Assemble the gyros: Place a pita on one end of a piece of wax paper. Dollop a few tbsp of tzatziki in the center. Arrange a few slices of tomato and onion on top. Add pork and potatoes, then a small amount of mustard and ketchup. Curl the pita around itself (it will just barely close), and wrap tightly with the wax paper. Continue with the other three.

Nutritional Information:
per gyros, i.e., 1/4 of total recipe (assumes you use lowfat yogurt)

585 calories
14g fat (3g saturated, 11g unsaturated)
88g carbohydrate
28g protein
7g dietary fiber
50mg cholesterol (17% DV)
1924mg sodium  (80% DV) ** This is a high sodium food!
1127mg potassium (32% DV)
Contains a significant amount (+10% DV) of the following:
vitamin A, thiamin, niacin, vitamin B-6, phosphorus, selenium, magnesium, zinc, vitamin C, iron, riboflavin, folic acid, vitamin B-12, manganese, and copper.

You might also like:
Fennel seed kebabs with yogurt sauce on pita
Kremmydopita (handmade onion pie)
Baked spanakoryzo 

handmade Greek onion pie

I cook and bake.  I live in Greece.  Therefore, I owe you a phyllo post.  There is a certain degree of difficulty to this, but to reassure you:  the first time I made this, it worked great and S, an actual Greek person, raved.  So, don’t be scared.

Phyllo pies are among the favorite of all Greek foods.  The most well-known outside Greece are tyropita (cheese pie), spanakopita (spinach pie), and their combination, spanakotyropita (spinach and cheese pie).  But there are dozens of these phyllo-dough based pies in Greece.  They vary a bit by geography but their basic concept is the same:  a few sheets of phyllo dough on the bottom, some sort of filling, and a few more sheets of phyllo on top.  Then there are the portion-sized versions, where the filling is wrapped up in phyllo dough.

Some other popular pies that are not as well-known outside Greece are kreatopita (meat pie), kremmydopita (onion pie), manitaropita (mushroom pie), melitzanopita (eggplant pie), patatopita (potato pie), prassopita (leek pie), and hortopita (wild greens pie).  Greece also has her own milopita (apple pie) and kolokithopita (pumpkin pie), which are completely different from the American versions.

Most people, when they want to make one of these, go to the supermarket freezer and grab a box of phyllo dough.  You can certainly do this too.  The cheapest package of phyllo at my supermarket was €1.46, and you get quite a lot (I believe 450g).  However, you don’t need a blog to tell you to buy a box of phyllo dough.  Supermarket, shmoupermarket, I say!

We’ll make a standard homemade phyllo, thicker than the machine made kinds, but great for the more hearty pies.  We’ll use it to make kremmydopita (onion pie), a frugal and delicious dish.

Making your own phyllo dough doesn’t take much in the way of equipment.  You do need a rolling pin.  If you want to make professional Greek Grandmother phyllo dough, you need a traditional Greek rolling pin, called a ‘verga’ (which means rod or switch), which is basically a very sturdy dowel about 1/2″ in diameter.  I don’t have a verga; instead I use a long slender solid-state (i.e., doesn’t spin on itself) rolling pin made by my local knife maker here in town.

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In the photo:  I have the one on top.  The one on the bottom is a proper verga.  You can use either.

The best way to do this recipe is to start by making the dough; then, while it’s resting, make the filling; then roll out the dough; and finally bake the pie.  The entire process, start to finish, takes about four hours.

If you’re not up for making the phyllo yourself, try this lesser-known pie with storebought phyllo!

Part 1:  Make the Phyllo Dough

There are many recipes for phyllo out there.  I chose the recipe and the technique from Tante Kiki’s blog.

There are no odd or exotic ingredients:  all purpose flour, sugar, salt, white wine vinegar, olive oil, water, and cornstarch.

Sift the flour into a large bowl.

Make a well in the middle of the flour, the same as if you were making pasta.  Put the sugar, salt, vinegar, oil, and half the water into the well, all together.  (I know it’s tempting to reduce the olive oil, but don’t, at least the first time you try this.  It makes it easier to roll out the dough so thinly.  Once you divide the thing up into 8 pieces, you’re only getting about 1/2 tbsp per piece.)

Using your hand, incorporate the flour into the wet ingredients, until it’s all mixed together.  It will stick to your hands; don’t worry, just keep working the dough with your hands, adding a few drops of water as needed to bring it all together.  I used just a few drops less than the 2/3 cup in the recipe.  I worked it directly in the mixing bowl.

The goal is a smooth but not sticky dough.

Flour the bowl, put the dough in it, and cover it with plastic wrap.  Put it aside until the filling is ready (or half an hour, for general reference) to rest.

Part 2:  Make the Kremmydopita Filling

You can use any kind of onion for this, except green onions (scallions).  I used yellow onions.  You could try a combination if you like.  Cut them in half, and then slice them into half-moons.

Frugal tip:  don’t throw away your onion skins.  Collect them in a bag and sew them into a notebook!  Haha just kidding.  (You didn’t really think I was serious, did you?)  Put your onion skins, along with garlic peels, ends of zucchini and eggplant, spinach ends, celery leaves, and all that kind of ‘trash’ in a big ziploc bag in your freezer.  When it’s full, boil it all in water, strain through a fine strainer, and use as excellent sodium-free vegetable stock.  It makes a fantastic soup base!

Heat up a pan over medium heat with olive oil and drop the onions into the oil.  Gently stir the onions every thirty seconds for thirty minutes.

After about fifteen minutes, add the dark brown sugar to help caramelize the onions.  (Authenticity note:  traditional kremmydopita doesn’t use caramelized onions; it uses lightly boiled onions, which don’t taste anywhere near as good.  Do as you will with that information.)

A few minutes before the onions are ready, add the rosemary.  You can use dried.  I have fresh so that’s what I used.

And then let them caramelize completely.

In order to reduce the cost sharply, I’m not using the traditional cheeses (feta and kefalotyri). You can certainly do that.  If you do, use about 2/3 feta (or all feta if you don’t have kefalotyri) and 1/3 kefalotyri.  I’m using a feta knock-off made with cow’s milk, anthotyro (the firm Greek ricotta), and shredded myzithra (which tastes like parmesan).  These are pretty much the three cheapest cheeses in Greece.  The strength of the myzithra partly makes up for what’s lacking in the fake feta and the anthotyro.   I am admitting this because I don’t want anyone to think that this can’t be made frugally.

Break up the cheeses in a large bowl.   Frugal note:  most recipes call for six eggs.  What the heck?  I understand that most Greek grandmothers had hens in their yard once upon a time, but seriously, that is not acceptable in this economy.  You do not need to use eggs at all!

Pour in the milk and mix it all up til it’s nice and incorporated.  Stir in the caramelized onions with the rosemary.  Set it aside.

Part 3:  Roll out the Dough

The dough is now rested and ready to be made into phyllo.  Cut your ball of dough in half.  Put one half aside and cover again with the plastic.

Dust your surface with corn starch.  Gently form the dough into a circle with your hands.  Put it on the surface and, using the rolling pin, roll out the dough into a rough circle.  You may, at some point, need more corn starch – I never do, but keep it handy.

Just go to town rolling the thing out, using a rocking forward and back motion with your palms.   By rolling the dough onto the rolling pin and rocking back and forth, you should have an easier time of it.

Unroll the dough on your dusted surface.  Hopefully you have a bigger surface than I do; I did the best I could with my tiny countertop!

We’re done with the rolling pin for the moment.  Get a bowl about 6″ across and put it in the middle of the dough.

Using a butter knife (or whatever knife won’t mar the surface you’re using), cut ‘rays’ out from the bowl to the edges.   Get rid of the bowl.

If you have an olive oil mister (like Misto), spray the whole thing with olive oil.  If you don’t, using a pastry brush, paint the entire thing, especially the cut edges, with olive oil.

Take one of the cut sections and fold it up over the round bowl section in the middle.

Continue doing this going all the way around.  You’ll end up with a thick multi-layered slab of dough.

Put it on a corn starch-dusted plate and cover with plastic wrap.  Put it in the fridge while you do the same thing with the other half of the dough.

Put this second half in the fridge and get out the first one, which has now rested.  Now get out your pan in which you want to make your pie.  I used a round glass pie dish.  Note how big it is, and, on a corn starch dusted surface, roll out your multi-layered dough slab into a (rough) circle the size of your pan plus its sides.  I know, it sounds crazy, but this is how it’s done.  Trust the process.  It will turn into separate flaky layers in the end.

This time around, the dough is usually more difficult to roll out, and harder to control the shape.  Don’t worry if it’s not a perfect circle.  You just need it to cover the pan and its sides.

Roll the dough onto the rolling pin.  Oil your pan (I just sprayed it really well with the mister).  Place the dough in the pan by unrolling it over the top of the dish and pressing it in gently.  If there are spots where the sides aren’t covered, cut from the ‘extra’ and press it where it’s needed.

Fill the pie with the onion filling.  Fold the extra over the top, cover with plastic wrap, and set aside.  Preheat your oven to 190 Celsius / 370 Fahrenheit.

Now roll out the other stack of dough.  This top dough should be the same size as the bottom dough – yes, even though we have no sides to cover.  I failed at circle time but that’s okay.

Get your pan.  Put the dough on top, scrunching it up into ripples so that it all fits.  You wanted tradition, right?

Part 4:  Bake the Pie

This is the easy part.  Put it in the oven on the center rack for fifty minutes, covered with aluminum foil with a few holes in it.

About half way through its cook-time, take it out and slice it into as many pieces as you want.  I did four because, well, we were hungry.  Something this size really ought to be eight pieces.  Put it back in the oven uncovered for the rest of its baking time.  (If you’re wondering why mine is brown before I cut it, it’s because I forgot the aluminum foil and put it on for the second half.)

And there you have it:  the reason why Greece has so many bakeries!  Ha ha, just kidding:  it’s worth it, I promise.

And now, the recipes!

Handmade Horiatiko (Village Style) Phyllo
makes enough for one regular pie dish

2.5 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
2 tsp white wine vinegar (or other vinegar)
4 tbsp olive oil
2/3 cup lukewarm water
cornstarch for dusting

1.  Sift the flour into a large bowl.  Form a well.  Add the salt, sugar, vinegar, olive oil, and half the water into the well.

2.  Incorporate the flour into the wet ingredients, using your hands.  Add more of the water as needed, and always in very small amounts.  Work the dough with your hands to incorporate all the flour and to form a ball.

3.  Work the dough in the mixing bowl with your hands until it forms a smooth, not sticky dough.  Flour the bowl, put the dough in, and cover with plastic wrap.  Set aside to rest for 30 minutes.  Use this time to make the filling.

4.  After 30 minutes, cut the dough in half.  Dust a large surface with corn starch.  Leave one half in the bowl, covered with plastic wrap.  Form the dough into a circle with your hands.  Place it on the surface and roll it into a large circle.  Continue to enlarge the circle by rolling the dough onto the rolling pin and rocking back and forth.

5.  Put a bowl approximately 6″ across face-down on the dough.  Cut the dough outward from the bowl to the edges in quarters.  Remove the bowl.  Spray or brush the dough with olive oil. Fold each of the quarters over the circle in the center.  Dust a plate with corn starch, put the dough stack on it, dust the top with corn starch, cover with plastic wrap, and put in the refrigerator.

6.  Follow steps 4 and 5 for the second half of the dough.  Put it in the refrigerator and remove the first plate.

7.  Dust the surface with corn starch again.  Roll out the dough stack into a large circle as you can.  Spray or brush your pie dish with olive oil.  Roll your dough onto your rolling pin and unroll it over the top of the pie dish.  Press it gently into the dish.

8.  Fill the phyllo with the filling.  Fold the extra phyllo over the top of the pie.  Cover with plastic wrap and preheat the oven to 190 Celsius or 370 Fahrenheit.

9.  Take out the second dough stack, and roll it out on your dusted surface.  Uncover the pie dish.  Roll the dough onto your rolling pin, and unroll over the top of the pie.  Press the edges around the pie, and form the interior into graceful folds.   Spray or drizzle the top of the pie with olive oil.

10.  Cover with aluminum foil, with a few holes.  Place in the oven on the center rack and bake for 25 minutes.  Take it out, cut into pieces with a sharp knife, and put back into the oven uncovered.  Bake another 25 minutes.

11.  Remove from oven.  Allow to rest uncovered for 45 minutes.  Recut and serve.

Kremmydopita (Greek Onion Pie)
makes one pie in a standard pie dish

1,000g onions (2.2 lbs)
1 tsp olive oil
2 tsp dark brown sugar, light brown sugar, or raw sugar
3 sprigs rosemary (or 1 tbsp dried)
100g feta cheese or acceptable equivalent
100g anthotyro cheese or ricotta
30g shredded myzithra or parmesan or equivalent
1/3 cup milk (lowfat or skim is fine)
1 recipe of Handmade Horiatiko Phyllo (above)

1.  Clean and halve the onions; slice into half moons.   Freeze the skins and ends in your stock bag.

2.  Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a non-stick pan.  Put in the onions and stir every thirty seconds for about 20 minutes.  Add in sugar.  Continue stirring the onions every thirty seconds.  After a few more minutes, cut the rosemary into small pieces into the onions and stir.  When the onions have caramelized (usually about 35-45 minutes cooktime), remove from heat.

3.  Combine the three cheeses in a large bowl.  Crumble the feta and anthotyro.  Add the milk and the onions.  Stir to combine.

4.  Set aside until phyllo is ready.  Use as filling for phyllo.

Nutritional Information
per serving, i.e., 1/8 of entire recipe of phyllo + filling

317 calories (204 from phyllo, 113 from filling)
12g fat (4g saturated, 8g unsaturated)
43g carbohydrate
9g protein
3g dietary fiber
17mg cholesterol (6% DV)
453mg sodium (19% DV)
281mg potassium (8% DV)
Contains significant amounts (+10% DV) of the following:
calcium,  thiamin, niacin, vitamin B-6, phosphorus, selenium, vitamin C, iron, riboflavin, folic acid, food folate, and manganese.

You might also like:
Olive bread
Fennel seed kebabs with yogurt sauce
Baked spanakoryzo 

anise-almond biscotti with orange glaze

The inspiration for these was, once again, the island of Milos.  We found something sort of similar to this at a store selling traditional and modern Melian delicacies.  However, I had to change it to suit our budget!

The star of this recipe is the aniseed.  Aniseed is a wonderful flavor that adds depth to sweets – not sweet in itself, it balances the sweeter ingredients well.  The original inspiration used dried cranberries, something way out of our budget (dried cranberries are very expensive in Greece, something like €30/kg in our town; fresh cranberries are completely unavailable).  I use raisins and they work well; I use more aniseed to balance out the sweeter raisins.  You can use cranberries if you like.  Zante currants, however, are the best here, or champagne grape raisins if you can get them.

You can either use slivered almonds like I do or you can just put some whole almonds in a food processor and use the bits.

The word ‘biscotti,’ from which obviously we get the English ‘biscuit,’ means ‘twice-cooked.’  That’s pretty much all you need to know about the technique of making these.  So let’s see how we do it:

Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl.  In a large mixing bowl, combine the sugar, one egg, and the olive oil.  Stir in the vanilla and orange extracts.

Stir the dry ingredients into the sugar-egg mixture with a wooden spoon in batches.  When about half of the flour is incorporated, stir in the raisins, almonds, and aniseed.

Then stir in the remaining flour.  The dough is very dry and you probably won’t be able to use the spoon toward the end; use your hands to press it all together into a single ball of dough.

Cut the dough in half.  Put a piece of wax paper on a baking sheet and oil the wax paper well.

Form each half of the dough into a rectangle directly on the wax paper.

‘Real’ biscotti usually have an egg-white glaze.  I can’t stomach the thought of wasting an entire egg just to glaze some biscotti.  I brush them with milk and that is completely adequate.

Pop them in the oven for half an hour.

Let them cool on a rack for about ten minutes; leave the oven on.  Slice them on the diagonal into 1/4″ strips.  Arrange them on the baking sheet (you don’t need paper or to oil it this time, they won’t stick) on one side and bake for 5 minutes.  Take them out, turn them over, and put back in for another 5 minutes.

Don’t worry that they’re not ‘crispy.’  They crisp up outside the oven while they cool.  Cool them on a rack.

You can stop at this point; store them in a plastic box and dip in coffee to your heart’s content.  Or you can make a simple glaze to bump up the luxury quotient.

This is basically a cheap royal icing that will dry hard, allowing you to store them stacked (i.e., the glaze won’t rub off one piece onto another).

Stir the powdered sugar into the milk.  Add milk in one teaspoon increments (seriously) until it is all incorporated.  Put the glucose syrup (light corn syrup) and the orange extract into the bowl.

Beat with an electric mixer for a few minutes until incorporated.  Slowly add in milk if needed to achieve desired consistency (you want to be able to drizzle it).

Wait until the biscotti are cool before you glaze them.  Put a piece of wax paper on the counter.  Put the cooling rack (with the biscotti still on it) on the wax paper.  Push the biscotti together so there are no gaps between them.  Using a teaspoon, drizzle the icing over the biscotti.  Allow to set for an hour or two uncovered.  Before you put them away, test with a fingertip to see that the glaze is not sticky.

For another take on anise-almond biscotti, check out Bellacorea’s recipe!

Anise-Almond Biscotti with Orange Glaze

For Biscotti:
1.5 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tbsp baking powder
scant 1/4 tsp salt
1 small or medium egg
3/4 cup white granulated sugar
5 tbsp (i.e., 1/4 cup + 1 tbsp) olive oil
1/4 cup raisins, currants, dried cranberries, champagne grape raisins, or chopped dates
1/4 cup slivered or chopped almonds
1.5 tbsp anise seed
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp orange extract
1/4 cup milk (lowfat is fine)

For Orange Glaze
1 cup powdered sugar (confectioner’s sugar, icing sugar)
4 tsp milk (lowfat is fine)
2 tsp glucose syrup (light corn syrup)
1/2 tsp orange extract

To make biscotti:

1.  Line a baking sheet with wax paper; oil the wax paper generously.  Preheat oven to 150 degrees Celsius / 300 degrees Fahrenheit.  Mix flour, salt, and baking powder together in a bowl.

2.  In a large mixing bowl, combine sugar, egg, oil, and extracts.

3.  Stir flour into sugar mixture in batches.  When half of flour has been combined, stir in raisins, almonds, and aniseed.  Continue adding flour until all is incorporated; use hands if needed to incorporate.

4.  Cut dough into two equal pieces.  Transfer one half to the wax paper and form with hands into a rectangle.  Repeat with other piece of dough.  Brush top and sides with milk.

5.  Bake for 30 minutes.  Remove from oven to cooling rack.  Leave oven on.

6.  When cool enough to handle, cut on the diagonal into 1/4″ slices.  Arrange on baking sheet with cut side up.  Bake 5 minutes; take out, turn the pieces over exposing the other cut side, and bake another 5 minutes.

7. Transfer to a rack for at least 1 hour.  If not glazing, store in a plastic container.

To make Orange Glaze:

1.  Mix the sugar into the milk in a mixing bowl.  Add more milk in 1 tsp increments if necessary.

2.  Put the glucose and orange extract in the bowl.  Beat together with an electric mixer for a few minutes, adding milk in 1 tsp increments if necessary to achieve desired drizzling consistency.

3.  Put a piece of wax paper on counter; put the rack with the biscotti over it.  Move the biscotti together so there are few gaps between them.  With a spoon, drizzle the glaze over the biscotti.  Allow to set for 1-2 hours uncovered on rack; test with fingertip that the glaze is not sticky, and transfer to a plastic box or bag for storage.

Nutritional Information
per piece, assuming you get 24 pieces out of the recipe
for each piece without glaze:

131 calories
4g fat (1g saturated, 3g unsaturated)
16g carbohydrate
1g protein
0g dietary fiber
7mg cholesterol (2% DV)
25mg sodium (1% DV)
91mg potassium (3% DV)
Does not contain a significant amount (+10% DV) of any micronutrients.

If you glaze the biscotti, for each piece, add the following:

34 calories
0g fat
9g carbohydrate
0g protein
0g dietary fiber
0mg cholesterol
1mg sodium (0% DV)
2mg potassium (0% DV)
Does not contain any micronutrients.

Note about the ceramics:  these ceramics are handmade by the pottery artist Ilias Maroulis from the village of Margarites in the region of Mylopotamos near the city of Rethymno in Crete.

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pillowy pita bread

After living and traveling in the Eastern Mediterranean for over a decade, I’ve seen a lot of pita bread cross my plate.  None of them have ever come close to this one – except the one made by an Israeli friend when she was teaching me how to make this one.  So thank you to Sarit for the lesson!  But don’t be intimidated – it’s not difficult.

Because the goal is the ultimate in pillowy softness (as I write this, I imagine myself as the star in a fabric softener commercial, you know the ones where the pretty lady with the spring in her step and the twirly dress has flower petals rain down on her from Heaven), I use all purpose flour; but you can use half all purpose and half whole wheat if you like.  I would not recommend using 100% whole wheat flour for this particular recipe.

These pitas will create a pocket, so you can open the pocket and stuff them.  We usually use them for dipping rather than stuffing, but it’s your pita so you can do whatever you want with it!

The ingredients are extremely simple and very, very frugal.  The only things you need are all purpose flour, yeast, warm water, salt, sugar, and olive oil.  You also need a cookie sheet or baking sheet.

Start by proofing the yeast.   Sprinkle the yeast and sugar over warm water in a large bowl.  Allow it to sit for a few minutes until it foams.

Meanwhile, weigh out the flour.

When the yeast is ready, stir in the flour, salt, and olive oil.

Turn out the dough on a floured surface and knead with floured hands for about ten minutes. I have a tutorial on kneading dough just like this one here.

Whenever I knead this dough, I always get drowsy.  The dough is so soft, that I want to curl up and take a nap on it.

Put it back in the bowl and cover with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel.  Let it rise for 90 minutes at room temperature.

After 90 minutes, turn on the oven to its maximum heat.  Place a baking sheet in the oven upside down.  It’s important that your baking sheet preheat together with the oven.  Check the dough; it should have doubled in size.  Turn it out onto the counter.  Press out the air from the dough and divide into the number of pitas that you want.  For this recipe, you can either make 8 regular pitas or 6 large ones.  I made 8 regular ones.

Form them into balls and place on a plate or two.  Soak the kitchen towel in water, ring it out, and drape it over the balls.  Let them rest like this for 20 minutes.

Roll out two balls at a time with a rolling pin, leaving the others under the wet towel.  Roll them to a thickness of about 1/8″.  When you have two ready to go, put them on the hot baking sheet.  Close the oven door and wait about 1.5 to 3 minutes.  They should puff up.  Take them out (be careful not to burn your fingers too badly!) and roll out the next two.  You want to keep your eye on these so they don’t burn.   The puffiness is a good indicator of when they’re ready.  I tend to take mine out after about 2 minutes; most recipes say to bake for 3.  It will depend on your oven.

Pillowy Pita Bread
Makes 8 pitas

300g all purpose flour
180 mL warm water (or more or less depending on your flour)
1.5 tsp active dry yeast or instant yeast
1 tsp sugar
2 tsp salt
1 tbsp + 1 tsp olive oil

1.  Proof the yeast:  put the water in a large bowl and sprinkle the yeast and sugar on top.  Set aside for 10 minutes, until it foams.  If it doesn’t foam, throw it out and start over with new yeast.

2.  Stir the flour, salt, and olive oil into the water and yeast mixture.  When it is fully combined, turn out onto a floured surface and knead with floured hands for 10 minutes.

3.  Oil bowl and top of dough.  Place in oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap and kitchen towel and allow to rise for 90 minutes.

4. Press air out of dough and divide into 8 pieces (6 for large pitas).  Form each piece into a ball.  Cover with a damp kitchen towel and allow to rest 20 minutes.  Preheat oven to maximum heat with a baking sheet upside down on a middle rack.

5.  Roll two balls into 1/8″ thick (1/3 cm) circles.  Place on the very hot baking sheet.  Allow to bake 1.5-3 minutes until puffy but not brown.  Remove and continue with the rest of the balls.

Nutritional Information
per pita, i.e., 1/8 of the total recipe

161 calories
3g fat (0g saturated, 3g unsaturated)
29g carbohydrate
4g protein
1g dietary fiber
0mg cholesterol (0% DV)
583mg sodium (24% DV)
55mg potassium (2% DV)
Contains a significant amount (+10% DV) of the following:
thiamin, niacin, selenium, iron, riboflavin, folic acid, and manganese.

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