Ruffled Milk Pie

This recipe was the first thing I got excited about when flipping through Vefa’s Kitchen. I mean, look at it.

I finally got around to making it late last night, and it was so easy! I’d never used phyllo dough before, but I will definitely be making more pastries and pies now. The recipe called for six eggs, but I only used four. I’d hate to think how high it would’ve risen with the full six; as it was, it had risen to a huge globe of dough and custard by the time I removed it from the oven.

This is the first thing I’ve made from Vefa’s cookbook that turned out looking exactly like the glossy cookbook photograph, so I was very pleased. It also has an appealing flavor, as it includes not only pastry dough but also sugar, butter, milk, eggs, and vanilla – it smelled heavenly baking. But I think my favorite part is the texture. It’s both rich and creamy, due to the custard component, and warm and crispy because of the baked dough. I thought this might be the perfect dessert when I saw it in the book, but I might’ve been wrong – it’s the perfect breakfast! It was great last night with a glass of cold milk, and it was still pretty good this morning with a cup of coffee and cream. Note that it will be best fresh out of the oven, however; reheated pie won’t be as crispy!

Martha Stewart has posted the recipe here (be sure to check out the video of Vefa and Martha making the pie on the left-hand side of the page!).

Vefa’s Meat-Stuffed Apples

These meat-stuffed apples (μηλα γεμισ με κιμα) were really rather a lot of trouble, but the result was unusual, filling, and quite tasty. In addition to the beef recipe used in the book, I made an altered, vegetarian version using just rice, currants, pine nuts, and herbs (plus added feta) as the filling for my partner.

Unfortunately, my apples exploded in the oven. Don’t worry – that might be a bit of an overstatement – I did not have to clean apple mush from the sides of my oven; but the final product was, sadly, not as photogenic as Ms. Alexiadou’s, which looked more like this. However, the taste was the same (I assume): basically, herb-infused beef with applesauce. I think next time I would just slice the apples and place them in the bottom of the pan, then pour the beef and rice mixture over the top and bake. It would be considerably easier. I would also double the herb and spice quantities called for; despite the inclusion of beef broth, onions, and nutmeg, the meat turned out a little bland for my tastes. However, I was able to repurpose the huge quantity of leftover, spiced beef (the recipe only calls for about 8 ounces, and I had a whole two pounds!); I’ll be posting my impromptu Mediterreanean Beef Casserole soon!

Vefa’s Meatballs with Yogurt from Thrace

Okay, like I said in my introductory post, I am not going to be posting Vefa Alexiadou’s recipes on this blog*, but I can tell you a bit about the process of making this fun and delicious entrée.

Vefa’s original recipe is for beef meatballs. In her book she discusses the historical emphasis on vegetarian food in Greek cuisine (from Pythagoras to modern-day, seasonal Eastern Orthodox restrictions), and notes that beef was, until recently, rarely enjoyed in Greece (at least compared to its popularity in Texas!). Because I already had some lamb in the refrigerator, and lamb seemed equally if not more Greek, I altered the recipe slightly.

The meatballs and onions after the first round of baking.

Using Vefa’s combination of meat, eggs, breadcrumbs, herbs and spices, I created these delicious Meatballs with Yogurt from Thrace (Παπουδα φρακιωτικη με κεφτεδεσ). I hadn’t encountered baked yogurt sauce before, but I am a convert! It made a nice change from the more usual melted cheese, while providing a rich, dairy counterbalance to the savory herbs and meat. This recipe also involves onion slices, which make a lovely bed for the meatballs and yogurt topping as they go into the oven. After baking, you just scoop them out and onto a plate, getting big chunks of lamb, scoops of yogurt sauce, and piles of browned onions! An easy and tasty one-dish meal – like a casserole, but much more interesting!

Mmm, yogurt sauce.

While this was, to my mind, characteristically Greek, I do hope to expand from meat and sauce in my next undertaking; expect to see some soups, salads, and desserts appearing here next!

*Though recipes are not fully protected by US copyright law, as a fellow cook and recipe writer, I do not feel it is appropriate to publish the hard work of others.

Eggplant Moussaka

As promised, here is the first big installment for Greek Food Month!

I tackled Vefa’s moussaka recipe, but gave it a little twist, leaving out the lamb so that my partner could enjoy it (he’s vegetarian). It was a time consuming—but not particularly difficult—recipe, and included the added bonus of teaching me how to make a béchamel sauce. Shockingly, I had never made what the Greeks call “white sauce” – but it will be a regular casserole topping from now on!

I’m not going to post the recipe here, because I don’t want to take away from Vefa’s hard work, and there are many (perhaps thousands) of moussaka recipes on the internet. It’s a pretty standard dish, not just in Greece but across southeastern Europe, Asia Minor, and the Middle East. It took three hours in total, from slicing the first eggplant to serving, but it was fun, and we now have enough left over to have moussaka for every meal for the next three days! In fact, we’ve already started planning breakfast (moussaka topped with a fried egg!).

I’ll just post a photo essay memorializing my first encounter with the quintessential Greek dish. But not tonight. I’ve just finished cleaning up and uploading pictures, and it’s already midnight! So, for now, just a little taste… Καλή όρεξη!