Showing posts with label cookies. Show all posts
Showing posts with label cookies. Show all posts

10 April 2014

Easter is Coming, and My Back's to the Wall

by Eve Fisher

This weekend, I am going to the pen for another weekend workshop.  Two weeks from today, when I'm writing this, I will be hosting a massive Easter Feast.  Thus, a post with more cooking than writing, and more customs than plot.  Oh, well...

Back to the Easter Feast:  So far, I expect 11 adults, 4 children, 1 baby, and perhaps 4 more adults coming, but who knows.  We just made the spanakopita this morning and put it in the freezer.  I have a 7 pound leg of lamb that I'll start thawing around Good Friday, and will stuff with garlic and herbs.  My guests - most of whom have been here before - know their jobs, and each bring a wonderful dish, so that I don't have to cook much else but the lamb and the spanakopita, and put out some olives and bread.  It's a Greek feast, but we're having it on Tuesday, rather than Sunday, so that more people can come.

Easter is a huge deal in the Orthodox church.  Yes, I know it's a huge deal in every Christian church, or should be, since without the Resurrection, the rest is iffy, to put it mildly.  But in the Orthodox church...  even my atheist father (a handsome Greek boy, as you can see) demanded red-dyed Easter eggs.  In the Orthodox church, Easter is the high holy day of days.

And food is an important part:  After 40 days of Lenten fasting - and in the Orthodox church that means no meat, fish, eggs, dairy products of any kind, oil or wine.  (Sundays you can have oil and wine.)  VERY devout Orthodox abstain entirely from food on Good Friday.  (In case you're wondering, I don't do any of this.)  And then, after the Holy Saturday midnight service, there is a love feast, and the next day:  lamb.

Leg of Lamb:
Take a leg of lamb (bone in), and trim of it of any excessive fat.
Cut slits all over it, about an inch or two apart, and in each slit put in salt, a sliver of garlic and/or some herbs (thyme is really good).
Salt and pepper it on the outside and dribble it with olive oil.
Roast at 350 until a meat thermometer reaches about 130 degrees
             (should take about 2 1/2 hours for a 7 pound leg)

Spanakopita:
1 package Filo pastry (I buy it frozen; life is too short to make your own)
1 stick of melted butter
2 boxes of cooked frozen chopped spinach OR 2 bunches of fresh spinach, chopped and cooked
Saute - 1 chopped onion and 3 cloves of crushed garlic in olive oil until tender
Blend - 8 oz. diced or crumbled feta with 2-3 eggs (you want it thick)
mix everything together and set aside.

NOTE:  The key to filo pastry is to work FAST.  I never let go of the buttering brush until I'm done.
Take an 8x10 or 9/11 sheet-cake pan.  (Actually, I use the disposable aluminum sheet pans that you can get 2 for $1.99 for this job.)  If you're going to freeze it before you cook it, line it with aluminum foil.
Put 2 sheets of filo in the bottom, brush them with butter, and then start layering the filo pastry, a sheet at a time, with half the sheet hanging over the edge at various angles (you'll fold them in over the filling at the end), buttering the half-sheet in the pan.  Build this up into a nice buttered filo pastry lining.  Then, when you've used up all the sheets, pour in the filling, and start overlapping and buttering the edges - a sheet at a time - that were hanging outside the pan.  (Save a sheet if you need extra coverage at the very center.)
Bake at 350 degrees for an hour.  Slice it into squares and serve.

Lamb and spanokopita are universals, but the cookies served depend on what part of Greece you're from. In my grandmother's house, it was kept simple and delicious:

Greek KoulouriaKoulourakia:
1 cup butter, creamed with
1 1/2 cups sugar
ADD - 3 eggs
            1 tsp vanilla extract
MIX:  4 cups flour with 1 tbsp. baking powder

Take handful and roll it out into a thin rope (1/4 to 1/2 inch wide), about 6 inches long; then twist them as in the photo.  Brush with a milk wash, and bake at 375 degrees until golden brown.  (Yes, they crack.  They also keep forever in a nice air-tight tin.  If you can keep them away from everyone.  And they taste great, dunked in tea, coffee, or even a bit of brandy...)

 Καλό Πάσχα!  (Happy Easter!)


15 December 2011

Naughty or Nice

by Deborah Elliott-Upton

I'm baking my grandma's recipe for cookies we only enjoy during the holidays. The scent brings me back to memories when I eagerly awaited a personal visit from St. Nick. All the while I hoped I had been good enough during the year to get exactly what I wanted from the jolly old elf, I remained a bit worried.

I'm wrapping gifts picked out for each person on my own list without checking to see if they were naughty or nice.

I'm listening to the GLEE Christmas CD and loving the idea, if not the reality of a Norman Rockwell gathering to look forward to this season.

I'm counting my blessings and having one heck of a time trying to think of a crime or imagine a criminal mind doing heinous things in the midst of feeling so blessed.

I know this a rampant time of year for burglars, grinches and car jackers to strike unexpected into our lives. I know that greed and commercialism is making louder statements in the world every day. I know that sometimes I am a bit naive about how the real world acts.

Last spring I was taken to task on Facebook when I said I wished the good guys could win on "Survivor." One of my friends scolded me online about it being a "game." A game, yes. I have to agree. I was gently reminded that when Colby did the right thing (in my mind), he lost the game and the million dollar prize. Last season I was once again disappointed and did not watch this season though I'd been a loyal viewer since the first episode.

This is my problem: I'm trying to be a nice girl in a naughty world. I try to play fair and then sneak off and write stories others may consider disturbing. Because I'm having fun playing both naughty and nice, do I need to see a therapist?

That's an interesting question I pose to myself often in the middle of writing a not-so-nice character. I feel a lot like Dexter. We share trying to live two highly different sides of our personalities in one lifetime. I think my "other life" as a writer isn't as dark as Dexter's as a detective/serial killer, but wouldn't he justify his choices, too? He's ridding the world of really, really bad people.

Do we all here share a naughty side? Do you enjoy the same sickness of loving to read about serial killers, tracking murderers and solving atrocious crimes we dare not undertake ourselves though we just may be able to get away with it if we tried?

Well, then, sit down. Have a cookie and I'll pour you a cup of coffee. We're going to be great pals. Wait until you hear what I'm planning to write next year. It's deliciously awful! I think you just may like the taste of a 2012 murder or two. I plan to write them more often than I bake Grandma's cookies.